Vanessa – The Fighter


Vanessa is an optimist and a fighter. Her whole life she’s been fighting for more: more time, more joy to spread around and more focus on family. This is her story:


Growing up in a small area of Costa Rica known as Los Chiles, Vanessa was diagnosed with a rare disease, she may be the only person she knows or has heard of with this disease. Her parents were told that she would only live until she was 5 years old. She was 3 at the time. They decided to make the most of the time they had with her and wanted to show her as much of the world as they could. However, Vanessa’s parents worked as car mechanics for most of their lives and didn’t have the money to travel the world. Instead they went to all the beaches in they could in their home country of Costa Rica.

Yet she beat the odds and as she continued to fight for survival and thrive, they realized that their doctor had been wrong, about her passing away, and about the medicine he was prescribing her. He diagnosed her with epilepsy and gave her medicine that eventually confined her to a wheelchair for life.

The family moved away after a flood destroyed their home, which allowed them a chance to be closer to a hospital and receive a new physician who was better able to help Vanessa with her illness. At 14 she took a chance with an injection that could only be found outside of the country. The doctor said it would either cure her or kill her, and she, along with her parents decided to take that chance. The injection did not work and she did nearly die from the experience. She had to be revived from the painful experience, but she fought on.


The Future

Vanessa is now 23 and living in La Fortuna with her two younger sisters and parents. She works in a local market selling books and connecting with all those she meets. She is still confined to her wheelchair, yet never lets that stop her in any endeavor. She loves to tell jokes and listen as well as talk to all those who come to the market. Family is what’s most important to her and both her and her younger sister work in any capacity to make ends meet. Her younger sister drives tractors and workers for different farmers in the area. They all contribute to the needs of their entire family, working with whatever skills they’ve gained.

When asked what she thinks about her future, Vanessa said, “I don’t think about it. I always live in the present because my sickness doesn’t allow to think too far ahead. Sometimes thinking too far ahead brings fear, fear of the unknown and fear of change.” Vanessa’s focus on the now helps her maintain positivity and do what she can now to seize the day! Although dreams may be a luxury her situation doesn’t afford, she does think of traveling one day, if she didn’t need constant medicine and care. One day though she hopes to be free enough, financially, physically and medically, to see more of the world.

Children at La Fortuna Market

Her Perspective

Vanessa’s illness has given her a great appreciation for life. She has now lived 19 years longer than her first doctor believed she would. She is vibrant, positive and kind. Her attitude helps combat the negativity that could engulf her, but her mindset is focused on now and what is going right for her today.

Her desire to connect with people, together with her outgoing nature, makes her someone that all in the market know and admire. She loves names and remembering people’s unique names, although she does admit that unique names are hard to find in Costa Rica, with everyone named Maria or Jose! Her view on life has given her time and just maybe she’ll have enough time and freedom one day to travel to see and feel snow for the first time in her life.

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