In November, in honor of Diabetes Awareness Month, we asked employees to share what inspires them to work at Medtronic Diabetes. I’d like to share one of those stories below.
A few weeks ago, my family gathered to carry out a beloved family tradition. Each year, we put together Thanksgiving food baskets to benefit families at a local elementary school where my sister teaches first grade. The school is in one of the poorest communities in Santa Ana, Calif. My mother — Ana Maria Amézquita de Pedroza — began this tradition more than 20 years ago.
We could easily purchase gift cards and give them to the families, but my mother always insisted that we also give our time to purchase wholesome items that were economical, which could fill the families’ pantries for a few weeks. Mom raised seven children, so she was very good at choosing staple items that could be used to make a variety of healthy meals, on a budget.
My parents emigrated to the U.S. from Mexico with five young children when my mother was pregnant with me. My younger sister was born three years later. Growing up, my mother always stressed the importance of education. She felt it was the key to our future, and it was a lesson we all took to heart. Every single one of her children has a college degree, and six of us have earned master’s degrees (the seventh is in the works). I remember hearing Mom share this proudly; she considered our education one of her greatest accomplishments.
Raising seven children as an immigrant wasn’t easy, but my mother truly embodied the definition of strength and hope. No matter what adversity she faced, she always put on a brave face and moved forward, always expe
cting that with God’s grace, better times were just around the corner. I am who I am today because of my mother’s strength, guidance, and unwavering love.
I don’t know what year my mom was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. I suppose I was too busy growing up, studying or working, to pay attention. I wish I had paid more attention. My mother had seven college-educated children and none of us paid enough attention to what was happening to her health. We didn’t take the time to learn more about diabetes so that we could help her better manage it. I feel like we failed her.
When my mother lost her vision to diabetes, we thought that was the worst that could happen. We were so very wrong. In 2007, after my father’s death, she was in full-blown renal failure and had to begin dialysis three days a week. That didn’t stop her. I get my adventurous spirit from my mom, and I made sure she traveled the world, planning trips and scheduling dialysis for her in places such as Austria, Germany, Greece, Oahu, and the Czech Republic. The staff at her dialysis clinic thought we were crazy. Her nephrologist, Dr. Hassan Movahedi, thought it was great, and encouraged us to continue. Two months before her death, we took her to Maui.
Living with diabetes and being dialyzed became her new normal, and my mom continued carrying out the projects that brought her such joy. One of the many things that I loved and admired about my mother was her generosity and charitable heart. She was truly selfless and brought joy to so many children. In addition to the Thanksgiving food baskets, throughout the year she made blankets and donated toys, scarves, hats, mittens and other items to make the children at my sister’s school feel loved. Every time she visited the school, she was mobbed by hordes of children, who treated her like a rock star. She sponsored orphanages on Native American reservations in New Mexico. She sent money, clothing, and toys to an orphanage in Guadalajara, Mexico. My mother was simply unable to turn her back on anyone in need. Her generosity has inspired me — and others around her — to be more charitable.
My mother passed away on Oct. 3, 2016 from complications caused by Type 2 diabetes. Before it killed her, diabetes devastated her body. It caused retinopathy and neuropathy, which took her sight and independence. It caused the amputation of one of her toes. Caring for this wound was painful and became a months-long struggle for us as her caregivers. Her renal failure confined her to a dialysis chair for four hours, three times a week. She would come home exhausted and in pain.
Despite her suffering, she continued to help others.
Even as her health declined, my mom insisted on fully participating in all of her philanthropic projects. From her wheelchair, she helped direct the shopping and distribution of the food baskets. It was something she looked forward to, and this tradition has truly been a highlight of our holiday season since it began. It is something we will continue to do in her honor.
My mother is who inspires me. She was the love of my life, and I miss her every day.