“Bingo!” Juan Solis shouted in the middle of game time at Sharp Cabrillo Skilled Nursing Facility in Point Loma.
What made this win extraordinary was the fact that Solis had been in a catatonic state, unable to speak or walk, for more than three years. His outburst was the beginning of a remarkable recovery that underscores the power of persistence and the importance of never giving up.
In 1998 at the age of 37, Solis was diagnosed with neurocys-ticercosis, an infection of the central nervous system caused by a parasitic worm. He had surgery to relieve the brain swelling that accompanied the condition, but complications brought him back to the hospital in 1999, where he stayed for three years with limited speech and mobility.
Following his break-through during game time, Solis picked up the phone for the first time and called his daughter. “The first thing I did was call my house,” says Solis. “She picked up the phone and asked who it was. I said ‘I’m your Dad!’” Solis’ daughter was so surprised she and the rest of the family came to see him right away.
“I love my life,” Solis says, one year later. “I now live with my daughter and son, I feel comfortable and I’m working hard. I tell other rehab patients that if you want it bad enough, you can get a second chance on life too.”
After the infamous bingo game, Solis practiced every day… constantly repeating words over and over until he could say them easier. His persistence didn’t stop there. Solis continued rehabilitation until he was able to walk again. Eventually, he was able to leave the nursing facility to live with his children.
Today, Solis works as a cook at both KFC and Taco Bell and assists in the care of his new grandchild, with another one on the way. He hopes to resume coaching children’s soccer a hobby he enjoyed before his hospitalizations.
For his strong spirit and unwavering perseverance, Juan Solis will be among five people honored at the 2004 Victories of Spirit celebration, which celebrates people with disabilities who have overcome traumatic injury and illness to regain healthy, productive lives, as well as those who have helped make these victories possible.
This annual celebration is sponsored by Sharp Health-Care Rehabilitation Services and will benefit Sharp on Survival. Special guests include Honorary Chair Donnie Edwards of the San Diego Chargers, and Emcee Bree Walker, a producer and broadcaster. The event will be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 13 at the Manchester Grand Hyatt at One Market Street. For more information on Sharp HealthCare Rehabilitation Services or to attend the 14th Annual Victories of Spirit Event, call (858) 541-3085.