The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

Popsicle Salesman Gregorio’s Community-Advocated Journey to Recovery

Finished+with+selling+popsicles+for+the+day%2C+Gregorio+takes+a+picture+with+Matilda+Haney+Foulds+after+receiving+surgery+for+his+right+eye.
Kathleen Zhu
Finished with selling popsicles for the day, Gregorio takes a picture with Matilda Haney Foulds after receiving surgery for his right eye.

After receiving surgery for both eyes, beloved Los Altos High School ice cream salesman Gregorio is making a quick recovery — and it wouldn’t have been possible without the help of those in the community. His medical care journey was only possible because of LAHS sophomore Matilda Haney Foulds, who raised $5,000 through GoFundMe last March, as well as community organizations that rallied to get him treatment.

Matilda approached Gregorio last year to tell his story for her Journalism One assignment. By talking with him daily through simple Spanish phrases and occasionally a translator, Matilda learned of Gregorio’s severe, untreated case of pterygium, which was causing issues in his vision.

I started to get to know him outside of journalism, more as a person. I would get used to talking to him almost every single day, hearing about his family, his work — I just couldn’t not help him.

— Matilda Haney Foulds

“I started to get to know him outside of journalism, more as a person,” Matilda said. “I would get used to talking to him almost every single day, hearing about his family, his work — I just couldn’t not help him.”

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The money raised by Matilda has been put into starting insurance, dental care and aftercare for Gregorio. Her effort to get Gregorio the treatment he needed deepened the bond between the two, each considering the other close to family.

“I feel a connection even though we don’t speak the same language,” Matilda said.

After raising the $5,000, Matilda reached out to her middle school teacher from The Girls’ Middle School, Maria Perez for assistance. Although she was unable to provide direct support herself at the time, Perez asked her former coworker, Spanish-speaking Associate Marriage and Family Therapist Lu Echeverria, to help Gregorio.

“Matilda has a great, great heart,” Echeverria said. “She saw two lives, she and him, two different countries, two different socioeconomic backgrounds, and two different cultural backgrounds. And at some point in life and somewhere on Earth, they found each other. One who needs help, and the other who wants to help.”

As an immigrant who isn’t fluent in English, Gregorio struggles on a daily basis.

“The immigration life is working, working, working because if I stopped, how is my family going to live?” Gregorio said.

Even though Gregorio visited an optometrist and ophthalmologist before receiving help, he did not realize the severity of his situation until meeting Echeverria. To find out what kind of help he needed, Echeverria found Gregorio’s entire medical history and compiled it all in a binder.

Without the language, he did not know the medical organizations that surrounded him. He did not know whether he had to go to a clinic, an office doctor or a general hospital. He did not know what his rights were.

— Lu Echeverria

“Without the language, he did not know the medical organizations that surrounded him,” Echeverria said. “He did not know whether he had to go to a clinic, an office doctor or a general hospital. He did not know what his rights were.”

Throughout the process, Echeverria not only became Gregorio’s social worker, but also his friend. Echeverria calls this the chain of life; once in need herself, she wants to repay those who have helped her before by giving aid to Gregorio.

“I give to others in need because there was a time when I myself was in need, and I met somebody who I never knew and never saw again, but he helped me,” Echeverria said. “This is my way of saying thank you.”

With the help of these people as well as Dentistry Practitioner Dr. Dania T. Armas, DDS, Gregorio had his gum infections taken care of before his eye surgery was carried out. After learning his story and financial situation, Armas offered to fill Gregorio’s cavities for free, saving him $1220 worth of dental fees. Altos Eye Physicians carried out his eye surgeries funded by Operation Access, a non-profit organization that provides surgical and specialty aid to people in need.

Echeverria made surgical appointments accordingly, and Matilda and her mom, Gina Haney, drove Gregorio to those places. Perez was able to set up a place to stay for Gregorio after his right eye surgery and deliver his meals every day for a week. Matilda and Haney did the same after Gregorio got his left eye surgery done. As a result of their efforts, Gregorio was able to get both surgeries completed, one month apart.

Since the surgery for my right eye, its recovery has gotten better day by day. If I didn’t get the surgery done soon, I would have lost vision.

— Gregorio

“Since the surgery for my right eye, its recovery has gotten better day by day,” Gregorio said. “If I didn’t get the surgery done soon, I would have lost vision.”

From health organizations offering free services to individuals who spent time making his recovery possible, each contribution allowed Gregorio to continue to support his family. 

“Thank you for everything,” Gregorio said. “Thank you to the community for letting me sell popsicles here. I’m very grateful that I got to meet all of you.”

Special thanks to sophomore Shantal Cisneros Saldana for translating.

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Kathleen Zhu, Staff Writer

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