When Angel Hernandez and 30 of his friends showed up in high spirits for the recent Los Angeles Great Strides walk, it was more than just evidence of his commitment to the fight against cystic fibrosis. The 20-year-old college student, who has CF, brings his enthusiasm to every opportunity — and every obstacle — he faces.
Looking at him, and the confident way he handles most of life’s challenges, one would never guess just how many challenges there have been.
Overcoming Obstacles from the Beginning
Being born and raised in the rough streets of Watts — the impoverished Los Angeles neighborhood most famous for the burning and looting riots in 1965 — guaranteed that life wasn’t going to be a slide. But Angel and his close-knit Latino family had more than the tough surrounding streets to worry about.
Angel Hernandez (left), 20, who has CF, walks alongside many of his friends from the University of California - Santa Barbara campus service group Hermanos Unidos at Great Strides.
Doctors at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles diagnosed him at birth with cystic fibrosis, and his family began the long journey of learning to care for their son. As Angel got older, he assumed that care for himself and enrolled in many drug trials, including one for TOBI.
“The greatest thing for me, despite this disease, has been the care and the support of the CF community,” Angel says. “I enroll in every trial I can, and I am committed to helping others with CF through my participation.”
Angel has other health issues as well. He has Crohn’s disease; at one point, he had Guillain-Barre syndrome. Five years ago, Angel developed diabetes.
His daily medical regimen includes taking 20-25 pills, an inhaled treatment, and daily sessions with a mechanical vest that pounds his chest to loosen the mucus in his lungs. In addition, he monitors his blood sugar and self-administers insulin.
Determined to Make the Best of Each Day
None of these significant health challenges has dampened his will to make the best of each day. In addition to his own fortitude, he credits his family and his long-time doctor at the CF care center at Los Angeles Children’s Hospital.
“Dr. Arnold Platzker has been with me since the beginning, through every medical crisis,” Angel says. “We have an incredible personal connection, and he is there for me and my family every step of the way.”
That kind of support also translated into academic goals.
“I remember thinking early on that I wanted to go to college, but I had no idea if I could make it,” he says. “But school has always been a priority for me, and in tough times it is what I focus on. Academic excellence means everything to me.”
The work has paid off, and Angel is currently thriving in his third year at University of California - Santa Barbara, majoring in sociology. He has a strong and supportive group of friends through his involvement with a campus service group called Hermanos Unidos, who engage in various community service activities in their mixed-income neighborhood in Santa Barbara. These are the friends who also walk alongside Angel at Great Strides.
Looking to the Future
After he finishes college, Angel hopes to earn a master’s degree in social work, with the goal of continuing his studies at the University of Southern California.
“I want to give back and help people who are struggling to overcome the odds,” he says.
Overcoming odds is certainly something Angel knows a lot about — and he continues to beat them all.
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