Miguel is the handiest of handymen. He paints, pressure washes, trims trees, fixes plumbing leaks. He is adept at electrical work. If you’re lucky enough to be a friend, he might add a room onto your house or build a storage shed in your yard for a bargain price.
He escaped the poverty of San Salvador with a plan to send money back home to his family and children, but his American dream took a detour due to health problems that got progressively worse — dizziness, partial facial paralysis, eye pain and pain on one side of the head. He worked through the physical symptoms as long as he could, but his condition deteriorated to the point where he needed to reach out for help.
Having no insurance, he paid cash to see a chiropractor and have a magnetic resonance imaging exam of the brain. When the MRI hinted at the possibility of a brain tumor, he was devastated.
Where does an undocumented immigrant go for brain surgery? What is the out-of-pocket cost? As fate would have it, self-proclaimed “regular guy” Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa was available for a free consultation.
Miguel had heard about Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa.
In 1987, on the day before his 19th birthday, Quinones-Hinojosa hopped an 18-foot fence into California from Mexico. He worked illegally as a migrant worker — living in a small trailer like the one the handyman currently lives in — in San Joaquin Valley. Sunup to sundown, seven days a week. But he earned his U.S. citizenship, and immersed himself in academic pursuits that culminated in a medical degree with honors from Harvard.