Paco’s Story

Growing up in Louisiana with learning disabilities didn’t make for the easiest life for Paco. ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) combined with Dyslexia was a nightmare, not just for the schools he attended, but also for his single mother. He was in trouble frequently in school, not because he wasn’t smart, but because he couldn’t stay focused. He was just more of a hands-on kind of kid that loved physical work and being in church instead. Saved at the age of 8, he had a strong faith in the Lord that propelled him into his teenage years, helping him to stay positive despite the tough situations he always seemed to find himself in. At 13 years old, life started taking a turn when God sent a true angel into his path.

The preacher at the church he attended took a shining to Paco, seeing a lost youth and wanting to help in any way he could. Paco was at church every time the doors were open, and the preacher started to take on that fatherly role and positive male role model that Paco needed in his life at the time since his father hadn’t been in the picture since he was three. The two quickly became like peas in a pod, much to his mom’s relief. Despite this new friendship he had found, he couldn’t seem to get a grasp on his schooling, and the trouble he got in continued to mount.

Feeling like a fresh start would be just the ticket the boy needed to get his life on track, the preacher had a bold idea. He had been offered a position he just couldn’t refuse right here in Muskogee, Oklahoma. He knew in his heart that if he left Paco behind, things would get much worse for him and his mother, so in a crazy idea that could’ve only come from God Himself, the preacher decided to ask Paco’s mother for permission to take him on his new adventure to Oklahoma. At her wits end with his behavior in school and seeing how beneficial the friendship had been for Paco, she agreed. They went to court that Monday, and she signed guardianship over to the preacher. It was a sad moment, but the future was looking much brighter for everyone on the other side of the storm they had been trying to weather. Although she had given up her custody, she was still his mother, and they continued to have a strong relationship, keeping in touch through phone and letters until her death 5 years ago.

In his new home in Muskogee, Paco was thriving. Even though he still didn’t graduate high school, despite the change of scenery, he was being exposed to so many other things he didn’t have a chance to learn about in his old life. He started raising chickens and working with horses and discovered that he had a real connection with animals. He met a girl he was absolutely crazy about and at age 19, he married her. They had 2 little boys together, and things were going great. Eventually, Paco decided to go to Tulsa Welding School, graduated with a certification in welding, and then went into truck driving school, where he also graduated, earning his CDL. At last, the storm was finally starting to clear, and he could see the bright rays of sunshine coming through.

Unfortunately, the sun wouldn’t be out forever, and before he knew it, the rain clouds were back again, threatening everything he had built. He was working for a privately owned trucking company, and even owned his own truck. Part of his routine was to inspect his truck and trailer at certain intervals. During an inspection of the company-owned trailer, he discovered that the load lock was damaged, and was sure to include that in his report. When he spoke with the owner about it, he brushed it off, and had him continue with work as normal. Not long after Paco had pointed out the damaged load lock, he was in the trailer when the load lock failed, causing it to drop down straight onto his head. He had a severe gash and was knocked out cold for some time before the sound of someone calling for him brought him back to consciousness. He went straight to the owner, but the owner said he would probably be fine and basically to get back to work. But Paco was NOT fine.

Within the first 3 days following the accident, Paco began having intense migraines, feelings of nausea and dizziness, and on the 3rd day, he fell into an all-out seizure. He was rushed to the emergency room, where it was discovered that the gash was extremely bad, causing a severe brain injury. Now Paco’s life was in real danger, having gone so long without medical treatment at the request of his boss. Eventually, he was stabilized though and released from the hospital, but the ultimate damage of the failed equipment wasn’t as quickly remedied. He began suffering from chronic migraines and seizures, making working nearly impossible. He knew he had to take action.

He got to work finding a lawyer, and eventually, he went to court over the accident and won his case. His settlement helped, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the trauma and agony that he would continue to go through the rest of his life. It was a bittersweet victory, but in true Paco-Fashion, he trusted in God to provide and continued to move ahead. His wife and children were there beside him, and after the settlement, they decided to move to Okay to recover from the devastating blow. It was a wonderful blessing being out in the rural area, and since he was unable to work, he finally had time in life to focus on other things. He got back into raising ducks and chickens and being with the animals gave him so much joy. After a while, a friend approached him saying that he should run for the city council, and he decided to go ahead and throw his hat in the ring. He was elected, and it was like a new spark was lit. He started up an annual Christmas Parade, a catfish contest, conducted many fundraisers in the town, and he was even tasked with signing city workers paychecks. He was finally feeling like he was in a good spot.

Sadly though, those pesky rain clouds came back, viciously raining on his parade. Due to his chronic seizures, he lost not only his CDL, but his driver’s license in general due to his seizure disorder and had to sell his semi-truck that he was so incredibly proud of. He felt like not only had he lost his license and his truck, but he lost his manhood. He was absolutely crushed. Although the settlement came, it wasn’t enough to provide for him and his family long-term, and they had to sell their rural home and move in with his in-laws in the city. When it rains, it pours though.

He got into an altercation with a police officer that he knew personally, things got out of hand, and Paco pushed the officer. He was arrested for assault on an officer and was given 2 years’ probation. He lost his seat on the city council and a downward spiral ensued. He ended up getting divorced, lost everything, and with no home, he decided his best course of action was to go down to the river and try his hand at living off the land. He had his service dog Izzy with him, who senses seizures and protects him during an episode, but the storm of life he was in was coming to a head. He woke one morning, only to discover that Izzy was nowhere to be found. He searched high and low for her, but to no avail. He was absolutely crushed. Little did he know that the storm was just God’s way of diverting a true miracle into his life. His name was Mark.

A few days later, a friend came to the river looking for Paco with the best news he’d heard in quite some time. Someone had posted on Facebook that they had found Izzy and were keeping her safe until her owner could be found. The friend recognized her and immediately went to find Paco down at the river. As if by a God-ordained miracle, it was none other than a GRM staff member, Mark, who had found sweet Izzy running around lost. He returned her, and the two men became quick friends, bonding over the gentle and loving pit bull mix that was Izzy. Over the next couple years, Paco had a mix of some rain and some sunshine, but Mark and his wife, Mitzi, were there as part of his support circle, helping to care for Izzy from time to time as storms moved through Paco’s world.

At long last, the clouds started to part, and there was a beam of sunlight coming through named Judy. She was lovely, grounded, and everything Paco needed at the time. He fell head over heels in love with her. Eventually, he and Izzy moved in with her, and it was like everything was finally right in the world. But as bad weather often does, it came rolling back through when Judy passed away suddenly from a stroke. Within weeks, he had nowhere to live, and was back at the river. God was about to move in a big way though.

When Paco told Mark and Mitzi what had happened with Judy, they hurt for him, and for Izzy. In the heat of June, when temperatures were reaching 120 degrees with the heat index, and Izzy being 8 years old, 56 years old in dog years, they knew the hot Oklahoma sun wasn’t any good for her, and it was time for Paco to seriously consider checking into the mission. If not for himself, then for her. Mark and Mitzi helped pay for Izzy’s shots so that she could accompany him at GRM and helped the two get settled here. It was a real God moment. Now Paco is staying sober, keeping to himself, and working on getting on disability for his seizure disorder. He is happy to be an environment where he can feel close to God and continue building his relationship with Him. His big goals for the future? Find a quiet little house for him and his girl, Izzy, and stay positive in life, no matter what weather comes his way.