PHOENIX — An Army veteran with a terminal illness has a final wish that we can all help with.
It doesn't require much effort on our part but would make a world of difference to a man who served his country.
He wants us, you, to send him text messages or give him a call.
Lee Hernandez, who is under hospice care at his home in New Bravos, Texas, has continuous strokes that have affected his vision and cognitive abilities. The 47-year-old’s body is deteriorating despite three brain surgeries, according to his wife, Ernestine Hernandez.
Doctors have not been able to pinpoint a cause for Lee’s illness and said there is nothing more they can do but make him comfortable.
'I guess no one wants to talk to me'
Despite the circumstances, Ernestine discovered a simple but meaningful way to brighten Lee’s day: phone calls and text messages from others.
The request came after Lee asked his wife to hold onto his phone one day “in case someone calls.” After nearly two hours with no calls, Lee told his wife, “I guess no one wants to talk to me.”
Lee was wrong.
“It broke my heart,” said Ernestine. “(Lee’s) speech is not very well, so many people didn’t take much interest or want to talk to him.”
She reached out to “Caregivers of Wounded Warriors” to spread Lee’s request. “They are an excellent support group of wives and ladies who know the struggles of what we go through," Ernestine said.
Lee is an 18½-year Army veteran who served a tour in Iraq.
Prayers, calls, and cards
Since the Arizona Veterans Forum posted his last wish on Facebook, Lee has received an influx of calls. Many come from veterans and people who want to let him know he is not alone. Ernestine says “a lot of people call to pray with him. It really uplifts him.” She reads text messages and cards to Lee, who is blind, and says he loves to listen to the outpouring of support.
The 47-year-old has been battling health issues for five years but hit “rock bottom” more than a year ago. Ernestine says her husband is a “fighter” and has “beaten the odds and his strong will keeps him going.”
“Thank you, everyone, for your calls and support. I am trying to give him the best life I am able to with the help of my mom,” Ernestine said.
People who want to call or text Lee should reach out in the evening hours, ideally between 2 and 6 p.m Arizona time. Ernestine said that is when Lee is alert despite heavy pain medication.
The phone number to reach the Hernandezes is 210-632-6778.
Ernestine adds that if they don’t answer the phone every time, it’s not that they don’t care, but some days Lee is in an incredible amount of pain.
“The experience is very painful, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”