Stranger's compassion rewarded after medical episode
Rebecca Pereida is a South Side mother of 3 who’s living with Dystonia. It’s a movement disorder that causes a person's muscles to contract uncontrollably. It impacts about 1% of the population, and there's no known cure.
Up until about a year ago, Pereida lived a normal, healthy life. Now, she can barely walk on her own.
"It was very scary because I didn't know what was happening," she told Fox San Antonio’s Ryan Wolf.
Doctors recently diagnosed the 44-year-old with full body Dystonia. It causes her crippling muscle contractions that turn even simple tasks, like drinking from a water bottle, into a painful process. Her 17-year-old son Valentine Valdez shared how her medical challenges have impacted the family.
"My mom is the one who usually helps with everything and takes us everywhere and now, sometimes, it's hard," he said.
With her disorder rapidly worsening, Pereida fears she will soon lose control over most of her body. While she's alert on the inside, it’s the optics on the outside, that have taken a toll on her emotional well-being.
"That was the hardest thing that I had to go through,” she told Wolf while struggling just to speak. “When I would go somewhere, and I would have to speak to someone, I would feel everyone staring at me."
That is until a stranger showed her a level of compassion she’ll never forget. It happened last month while the two were in the waiting room area at a doctor’s office. Pereida suffered a severe medical episode that caused her neck and body to stiffen and tremble.
"I was just real scared and she held my hand," she told Wolf. "I asked her if you could reposition my head. And then she had another lady help put me on the couch. She offered me water. And she served it to me. She got into my purse and got me some meds. She wiped my tears. She texted my son back for me."
Now, she wants to reward her savior.
"There's still good people that are out there,” she said. “There's still kind people out there. People that are total strangers."
The stranger who helped her is named Lei Ielome. She's a 28-year-old nursing student on the far Northeast Side.
"Hi!” Ielome said with a big smile when she saw Pereida outside her home. “I missed you. How are you doing?"
Fox San Antonio helped set up the reunion. It’s the first time the two have seen each other since the doctor’s office.
“Thank you Lei for not judging me,” she told her while holding hands. “And for just being there for me.”
Ielome reached out to give her a hug. “You don't have to thank me,” she said. “You've had as much of an impact on me as I had on you."
Ielome had no idea she was secretly nominated for the CASH FOR KINDNESS prize.
“You gave her the courage to keep going forward and because of that Fox San Antonio wants to reward you,” Wolf told her next. “Will you put out your hand?"
Ielome counted the money he handed to her.
"…$700, $800, $900, $1,000!" she said with tears in her eyes.
“Thank you Lei,” she said while the two hugged for a second time.
“You're making me shake,” Ielome said.
She plans to use her CASH FOR KINDNESS money to help pay for school.
Ielome wants to be a registered nurse to give back after seeing the kindness her husband Losefo received when he was hospitalized 5 years ago.
The Army sergeant was struck by an improvised explosive device while serving overseas in Afghanistan.
Click here to nominate someone for the CASH FOR KINDNESS award.