Friends rally to aid man losing sight, hearing

Pepe worked hard to educate the public about his service dog. Photo: Facebook

Mérida, Yucatán — José Ivan Caballero Cácere has been hearing impaired since birth, but when he began to lose his eyesight, a larger challenge began.

What began as a fight to live a full life became a fight for acceptance.

The obstacle? Few understood the role of a service dog, a gift from the local Lion’s Club.

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Pepe, as the 33-year-old man is known, had been turned away from public places such as malls, restaurants and public transportation because of his dog, Praia. But his friends and family rallied, garnered lots of media attention, and persuaded officials to let his dog accompany him on a bus or in a restaurant.

Now, his allies have another goal. An expensive surgical procedure could restore much of Pepe’s hearing, and Fundación Elda Peniche Larrea believes they can raise the funds.

The foundation is a nonprofit civil association serving children and adults with hearing loss in the state of Yucatán.

As Pepe’s sight and hearing continue to deteriorate, friends are concerned that he will be completely isolated from the world. Doctors have concluded that an inner-ear cochlear implant would likely help restore some of his hearing.

This surgery can run up to US$100,000. Thankfully, a doctor has agreed to perform the surgery and waive his fee. But there’s one significant cost that’s not covered.

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The implant device itself costs US$26,500, and that’s the object of the foundation’s fundraising efforts.

A cochlear implant is an electronic device employed when a conventional hearing aid is of no use. It is surgically implanted in the inner ear and activated by a device worn outside the ear. Unlike a hearing aid, it does not make sound louder or clearer. Instead, the device bypasses damaged parts of the auditory system and directly stimulates the hearing nerve, allowing individuals who are profoundly hearing impaired to receive sound.

Overcoming challenges

Pepe showed determination early. At 19, while still sighted but with difficulty hearing, he began working at Gamesa, a commercial bakery in Mérida that gave him his first great opportunity to work. He describes his first day of work as one of the happiest of his life.

“He felt like he belonged there, he was part of something but especially that he was a productive member of society,” Fundación Elda Peniche Larrea explains in a petition. “This positive attitude was recognized by his superiors, so soon his case was published on the boards of the company nationwide, so his colleagues from other states knew about him and they nicknamed him as The Angel of Gamesa.”

The petition continues:

However, life had a new test. He began to lose vision, limiting their performance, but Pepe “never gave up,” he learned to read Braille and handle a walking, allowing him to have again that “independence” to be perform in his house, neighborhood, in the buses and in the city. But his vision continued to decline significantly. Soon the company, fulfilling its social commitment, granted him a pension through the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS). This was very painful for him, to have to say goodbye to friends, colleagues, their work environment that he really enjoyed and start a new stage and adaptation of life. His strength to face this new setback in his life was difficult but embraced by the love of his family and friends he managed to continue. He instilled strength and courage to his mother who he told, “Mom, do not worry, I’m still alive and I will keep fighting.”

Tax-deductible donations can be made out to Fundación Elda Peniche Larrea AC. Account Number: 062449745-7 Banorte.

If you do not need a tax deduction receipt you can make the donation on behalf of José Iván Caballero Cáceres, account number 60-58054110-6 Santander Bank.

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