Listen a Little Closer to What Deb Has to Say
I love listening to people’s life stories. Here’s one I recently heard.
Deb Arguello was living the independent life she wanted. Her cerebral palsy didn’t stop her from that goal. She had her own apartment with people coming in to help her with the daily tasks she could not do on her own.
Until the weekend when the staff didn’t show up.
Deb ended up alone – and scared – the whole weekend. Her cat had knocked the phone off the hook and she couldn’t reach it to call for help.
“I didn’t know if anyone would ever come for me,” she says.
Deb grew up in Iowa and spent a few years living in New Orleans when her foster dad had a job there. She’ll tell you, using her communications device, that New Orleans is still her favorite place and she visits whenever she can.
The talk brings out a big smile.
A lot of Deb’s communication is through visual cues, a ready smile and laugh that shares her excitement about something. She also uses a device that allows her to program sentences or build individual words by typing them out.
But not everyone takes the time to know that about her.
That’s a real frustration for Deb.
“A lot of people don’t know how to approach me,” she says. “They don’t know what to think or how to treat me. I wish they would see me. I wish they would talk to me instead of my staff and treat me as the adult I am.”
Deb doesn’t mind people asking questions. She wants them to learn about her and her life, about her disabilities and how she overcomes them. She wants them to listen.
None of the questions or comments really bother her, she said. But when people just stare, that gets to her. Deb channels the frustrations she feels into advocating for people with disabilities. She says Mosaic helped her become a “strong advocate.”
She started a support group, called Happy Voices, for people who use communications devices like hers. Deb says the goal is to make people comfortable using the devices in ways that help others listen.
“I wish people would try to get to know us more instead of thinking something is wrong with us,” Deb says.
She also is politically active, staying on top of legislation that affects people with disabilities.
“I send emails to my legislators, and I visit the State Capitol every spring with Mosaic in order to advocate for myself and others,” she says.
The weekend when no one showed up to help was life-changing for Deb. It led her to Mosaic.
Instead of living on her own, she now shares a home with two other women, both of whom also have disabilities. There is staff on hand around the clock.
But the change wasn’t easy. It was a trade-off for Deb. She gave up some independence, and she said the biggest challenge was learning patience. But it feels secure, and it has allowed her to grow in other ways, like having a job she loves.
Three days a week, you’ll find Deb working at a local grocery store. It is a happy place for her, and it shows.
She positions her electric wheelchair in a prominent place, in the center, between the check-out lanes and the grocery aisles. As people approach, Deb’s finger moves to the touchscreen on her communications device, and you hear it say, “May I help you find something?”
And she smiles.
So do most of the people who hear the question. Not everyone does hear – the store can get busy and people are focused, sometimes so focused they don’t notice a person who just wants them to listen.
But among those who do hear, many are looking for something, so they’re happy for the offer. Deb leads them right to the spot where they will find what they were seeking. (One of the assistant managers at the store says Deb knows the store better than he does.)
“I love my job because I feel like I’m helping people, which is something I’ve always wanted to do,” Deb says. “This job means a lot to me, and I feel very accomplished and proud of myself.”
Deb’s success makes Mosaic proud of her, too.
There’s so much to Deb’s story – her travels, her beloved cat named Cowboy, reading, music and concerts, friends, Facebook and more. As a whole-person healthcare provider, Mosaic supports Deb in all of those areas. We listen to what she wants, then find ways to help make it happen because we know that people are healthier and happier when they’re engaged in life.
That’s why I’m sharing Deb’s story and asking you to make a gift today. Your financial contribution to Mosaic help with items like maintaining the wheelchair accessible vans that transport Deb and others around, simple wheelchair repairs, needed household items and more – all of the things that support a full life for people.
If you ask Deb, she’ll tell you the key to her success is a good attitude. The staff who work closely with her agree, and that attitude can be infectious.
Thank you for your ongoing support of Mosaic and the people we serve.