He had serious brain damage, but he’s doing better than anyone could have hoped.
A terrible accident
Everything was going well for Eliza’s family until August 21, 2018, when her 19-year-old second child, Joaco (a nickname for Joaquín) Chumaceiro, suffered an accident on vacation in Jamaica. Eliza told the details of the drama to Vanity Fair. While she was preparing dinner, Joaco was having fun outside with a friend, and when they got out of a swimming pool, they got into a golf cart for a short drive. However, it had become dark outside and they accidentally drove the golf cart off a steep 12 foot slope. The friend escaped without harm, but Joaco hadn’t been as lucky — he was immediately flown to a hospital in Miami.
Joaco spent 10 days in the hospital without the doctors being able to confirm whether or not he would survive. They were days of great suffering, but the worst thing was the final diagnosis. “His injury is so grave that there’s nothing we can do. Unplug him,” they told Eliza when they saw that the connection between Joaco’s cerebrum and cerebellum was damaged. “He’s not going to get out of bed, and he’s not going to wake up: he’s going to be a ‘vegetable,’” they told her.
Eliza described her reaction to Vanity Fair: “I couldn’t stand on my own feet. I had a sensation of fear and terrible vertigo. It was like being in outer space and not having anything to hold on to.”
A mother’s love and determination
Eliza wouldn’t give up, no matter what the doctors said. She rallied her strength and took action. “I spent six hours in shock. Then I thought: the worst is over. From here on, everything is going to be good.”
It was then that her true strength appeared. “I set up a small altar next to the head of Joaco’s bed. I thought, ‘If the miracle happens, we’re not going to know which saint is responsible,’” she told Vanity Fair with a laugh.
Since they had given up on Joaco at the hospital in Miami, Eliza and her husband Robert decided to transfer their son to a hospital in Madrid.
On September 6, the first good sign appeared: “He opened one eye halfway, but he was still totally out of it.” Eliza kept praying, and, she kept telling her son something appropriate for a student of computer science such as he: “God is giving you your first assignment. You have to fix your own computer, which is your brain.”
On October 20, the miracle happened: Joaco opened his eyes and began to cry.
Since then, Eliza hasn’t ceased encouraging her son and helping him to improve as much as possible, always confident and trusting that God will take care of her son.
Indeed, that’s how it has turned out so far. With hours and hours of therapy and a special diet, her son has continued to improve. This past March 16, he stood up on his own two feet, although he couldn’t walk yet.
On May 25, another great step was taken: he got up without the help of his wheelchair. Eliza explains that today Joaco is perfectly clear-headed, and his problems now lie mainly in his motor abilities and ability to talk.
Eliza wants to tell her son’s story to the world: how he survived an accident that could have left him either dead or paralyzed in bed for the rest of his life. Her faith in God and her love for her son were the driving forces that inspire her today to want to make a documentary about what happened. Knowing her tenacity, we will soon be hearing about her from Hollywood.
Recently, Eliza published on Instagram a picture taken right after her oldest daughter’s graduation from the University of St. Andrews in England. It shows Joaco standing between his older sister in her graduation regalia and his younger sister. He’s wearing a smile and looking dapper with his bright red bow tie. Let’s join his family in praying for his continuing recovery, and that of all those who have suffered debilitating injuries. Miracles can happen, especially when we trust in God and don’t give up, and even when the miracle we hope for doesn’t happen, every life is worth the effort.
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