- - Monday, June 22, 2015

In the trying days and months after their son Luis was wounded in Afghanistan, Sonia and Julio Alvarado found themselves questioning the very faith that governed their lives as United Methodist pastors.

After more than 15 years preaching the Gospel, they found their beliefs shaken by the circumstances of Luis‘ life. Sonia wondered how the God she had preached about for so many years could let their son suffer such a horrendous fate, a son who had served both them and his country so selflessly.

Army Sgt. Luis Alvarado was severely injured in 2011 by an IED blast while serving as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The blast injured both his legs so severely that in time his right leg was amputated from the hip and the left one amputated above the knee. He also suffered severe burns on his lower back and severe traumatic brain injury that left him completely incapacitated.

Although the hospital in Texas where Luis was treated recommended a nursing home or medical care facility for Luis‘ long-term care, Sonia and Julio decided that if Luis were to have a meaningful life, he needed to be at home where he would be surrounded by people who loved him, people who would make sure that he received the best medical, physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual care he needed to rebuild his life.

Without hesitation, they quit their jobs in Illinois and moved to Texas. Before they left, the hospital trained them in the extensive care that would be required to meet Luis‘ needs.

They became skillful in feeding him through a tube, water flushes, giving medications, tracheotomy care, bathing, oral, eye and urinary care, physical therapy, catheter care, colostomy and urostomy care, wound care, splints and body positioning.

While struggling through their trials, their faith rebounded as they realized their lives had a brand new meaning: making sure their beloved son is well cared for and comfortable, and has a life of significance and joy.

“For caregivers, it is very important to have faith,” says Sonia.

Fear brings only pain, she believes, but faith brings hope, strength and the power of believing that God is with us. Faith is what keeps her going.

As Dole Caregiver Fellows, Sonia and Julio have much to offer in moral and spiritual support to other caregivers coping with extreme challenges.

They also hope to share their experiences with elected officials to point out challenges military caregivers face and enlist support for programs and resources so needed by this unique community.

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