José Solorzano was just a teenager when he made a decision that changed his life forever. He says he was “young and dumb,” and found himself involved in gangs. One night he was with a friend in a Chicago neighborhood known for its gang activity when they came under gunfire. José was shot five times at point blank range, his injuries leaving him a quadriplegic. Now 36 years-old, the Hickory Hills man lives a life filled with obstacles, including dependence on mechanical ventilation and having a nurse at his side 24/7. But even though he has been through so much, José says he feels blessed to be alive, and to be cared for at home with his family by his side, as opposed to a long-term care facility. Despite his condition, he now sees his life as an opportunity to grow as a person, to help other youngsters make better decisions, and to show people how living a life of peace and joy is a personal choice, no matter the trials you face.
Q: Your injury occurred from a shooting at a time when you were very young. Have you been able to make peace with what happened?
A: Yes, and it is because I believe that this was the only way I would have come to know God and know him as much as I do. Outward pain accelerates inward progress. I have been able to really study and change the way I think, which affects everything else. The way we think determines our emotions, our emotions determine our decisions, our decisions determine our actions, our actions determine our habits, our habits determine our character, and our character will lead us to our destiny. I am so grateful God did not leave me in the state that I was in and on the path that I was headed. One day I will be able to thank Jesus face-to-face and say everything I went through was all worth it.
Q: You said that being cared for at your home is very important to you. What would you tell people about the importance of home health care?
A: Well there is nothing like being at home with your family with one-on-one care by a nurse, somebody taking care of you who knows you and what works best for you. I know that is one of the main reasons after 18 years I have been doing so well despite my circumstances. That is well over 19,500 shifts that have been covered only by the grace of God. I have been with Independence Plus since they were a much smaller company, but because I am God’s favorite he has blessed and prospered them to being one of the best home health agencies, as I have been also told by other nurses.
Q: You host a bible study in your home and you mentioned that you were privileged to speak at the retirement party of a pastor who has been very meaningful in your life. How has your faith helped you in life?
A: I have been able to speak at churches of many different denominations and also at a very large banquet that a ministry nurse and I were involved with. There were a lot of pastors, even a couple with television ministries, and out of all those people they asked me to speak. But, as I said, my greatest privilege was speaking at my pastor’s – my spiritual father’s and one of my best friend’s – retirement service. As you can see in the way I have answered all of these questions, faith is a big part of my life. Faith is a Fantastic Adventure In Trusting Him.
Q: You mentioned that people often look at all of the bad things in life and don’t focus enough on the good. You said that choosing to see your blessings has brought you “peace and joy.” How do you keep your mind focused on the positive in the moments when you are feeling down?
A: There are some things you can do to help you feel blessed. First of all it is a choice what you want to do. The Scripture teaches us to magnify God and his goodness. You magnify or make bigger what you habitually think about. What do you want to make bigger – your God and your blessings or your problems? This is also called meditation, and if you know how to worry, you know how to meditate. It is constantly going over and over on purpose in your mind the things of God and the good things in your life. And I know if I can find many good things in my life, everybody can.
Q: After having nurses for so many years, what qualities do you appreciate in a home health nurse?
A: I think every patient would like a nurse that is compassionate and tries to understand the difficult circumstances the patient is in. Also one who is a continual learner and is willing to learn more about their skills and about their patient’s condition, and that their condition and care may change after a while. I have been in this condition for more than 18 years and I am still learning more about myself and what works best, and I have been doing very well because of it.
Q: What advice do you have for people going through situations similar to yours?
A: To paraphrase Corinthians 4, although our outward bodies may be falling apart, we can still renew our hearts and minds on a daily basis. And the brief sufferings of this world cannot compare to what we will experience for all eternity.
Q: What would you like to see changed in order to better accommodate the needs of people with physical disabilities?
A: I really cannot think of much. I think they have done a lot for accommodating people with physical disabilities and there is so much out there to help people, it just takes some research.
Q: Do you mind people asking you questions?
A: No, I love being able to help and answer questions people have asked about God, life, the Bible and of me.
Q: You had a Chicago Cubs t-shirt on when I saw you. Is that your favorite Chicago team and do you enjoy watching the games?
A: Yeah I do. The games are so long and slow, so we usually record them and I watch the whole three-hour game in about 20 minutes and I really do not miss anything. My brother is a diehard Cubs fan and converted me many years back from a White Sox fan to a Chicago Cubs fan. He actually took me to a game some years back and we were in a wheelchair accessible place right in back of home plate. That was nice!
Q: What does living life to the fullest mean to you?
A: A fulfilled life to me is accomplishing everything God will have me do for him and for others, and then my ultimate fulfillment will be to be with him. Philippians 1:21 – 23 says, for to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ.
Q: What are your goals for the future?
A: As it has been said, if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. I am right now in the process of renewing my transportation services so that I can get out more, especially to a couple of churches that have been waiting for me to come and speak. And then we will see what He has planned after that.