I approached the nursing station at Brandon Regional Hospital late Sunday afternoon and said, “Hi, I’m looking for Efrain ...”
Before I could say his last name, the nurse smiled, pointed to his room, and said, “He’s over there.”
It turns out she has had a lot of practice directing visitors to Efrain Sotomayor’s room. His friends and family said the line had been out the door earlier in the day as friends and well-wishers stopped by to make sure he understands just what he means to them.
Efrain is one of those indispensable people. A self-employed auto mechanic, he has been known to do repairs for free if someone couldn’t afford to pay. As a deacon in his church, he is always doing chores and taking care of little things that otherwise wouldn’t get done.
However, the one who always helps and never asks for anything in return now needs a lot of help for himself and his family.
Last week, I wrote about how this man of many good deeds had stopped by McIntosh Road along Interstate 4 to help a woman who was stranded on the side of the road. After physically pushing her car about a quarter-mile toward a gas station, he later experienced chest pains. Doctors determined he had suffered a heart attack.
That much we initially knew.
What we didn’t know at the time the column appeared was how extensive the damage was to his heart. Continuing as a mechanic could be difficult if not impossible, so he and his wife are going to need lots of help going forward.
Some angels have jumped in to help. The Brandon Foundation is mobilizing to offer support. Other readers wrote in with donations after the column about Efrain appeared here.
“It has been humbling,” Efrain said. “I’ve always been on the other side of giving; that’s what I prefer to do. But I also have to make sure that my family is taken care of, so I have to stop being prideful about this.
“It’s like God says, if I provide for the sparrow, how much more will I provide for you? And if he is blessing others by allowing them to help me, who am I to steal their blessing?”
He has catastrophic insurance, but it won’t cover the life vest he’ll need to wear for up to three months. It basically functions as a defibrillator that shocks the heart if it slows too much. That’s several thousand dollars the family will have to pay.
“They are going to need assistance,” said family friend Margaret Conway, who has been guiding Efrain and his wife, Laura, through the maze of bureaucracy that stands between them and additional help. The family’s friends at the South Brandon Worship Center are helping as well, especially after hearing Sunday’s sermon about the virtues of “dangerous giving” from the book of Acts.
It’s not just money, although the Sotomayors surely need that. People are helping with household chores, shopping and all the other things we tend to take for granted in everyday life. They are closing ranks around one who was always been there for them.
His job now is to get well.
If he is worried about what the future holds, it doesn’t show. His smile and serenity were the first things I noticed when I got to his room.
He didn’t complain about the turn of events in his life. He didn’t hesitate when asked if he would stop to help the woman again if he had it to do over.
“I’d never hesitate,” he said. “God knows what he is doing.”