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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Medical Assisting student escaped a childhood of torment

March 21, 2016
Medical Assisting student Wendy Flores
Medical Assisting student Wendy Flores has a lot to smile about these days.

“I never thought I’d live over the age of 20,” says 33-year-old Wendy Flores. “When I turned 21, I was like, ‘I made it!’”

Those early years were a bleak time in her life as the youngest of seven kids, whose mom just couldn’t protect them from an abusive father and the darkness he brought into their home.

“I was physically abused by cousins at age 6, began drinking and stealing at age 10 and put a gun to my head at age 12, because I felt nobody loved me, so there was no reason for me to even live,” she remembers.  She watched her dad put a knife to her mother’s mouth and threaten her life with the same anger he regularly unleashed on them all.

She retreated to a dark bedroom each day after school and tried to understand how this could be her life. “I couldn’t understand how family could do that to you; but I had to live with that and carry it,” says Wendy.  She rarely slept.

Her healing began at age 15. Her mother, Esther, traveled by bus every weekend from Fresno to L.A. to attend a special church there. Wendy refused her mother’s pleas to join her. A branch of this church opened up in Fresno, and Wendy found herself with her mom, but questioning being there.

“I remember clearly that very moment I felt something I had never felt before,” says Wendy. “Something positive, something like someone cared. I gave myself the chance and put my heart into it.”

Healing was a slow and painful process. “I had to face forgiving; my cousins, my dad. Myself. Everything just started getting better, and better and better. Keep pushing forward, don’t look behind,” I told myself.

During the next half-dozen years, Wendy made lots of changes in a new direction. After high school, she enrolled in SJVC’s Health Care Administration program in Fresno, where she earned her A.S. degree. At 20, she was in Los Angeles, working for a company with connections in Canada. Her now-husband Alex Dos Santos called her one day from the Canadian company with a business request. From that initial conversation, a romantic relationship developed. Months of deep long-distance conversations turned into a visit, relocation and eventual marriage.

“Alex had a difficult childhood, too, and it showed us who we don’t want to be and what we want to become,” says Wendy, “It had changed us both for the better and brought us closer.”

Back in Fresno, Wendy decided to go back to SJVC to specialize in the medical side of health care with the Medical Assisting program. She was so confident in the quality educational experience she had received previously that she convinced Alex that he might enjoy a new career direction as well.

Alex’s current full-time position is phasing out at the end of this year, so the timing was perfect.

Alex wants to work in radiology – MRIs, X-rays – and Wendy is drawn to cardiology and would hope to work in management or education.

They are both giving every bit of time and energy they have to their Medical Assisting program and have started their externships soon. “We have embraced this dream so completely,” says Wendy. “Every day we know we are here for a reason, not to just occupy a seat.”

Both are maintaining 4.0 GPAs and are strong volunteers on campus, including American Medical Technologists-Student Society, where Wendy just stepped in as President.

“Alex is there at every meeting (AMT) with me, at school orientations for new students and to volunteer – with no sleep!” says Wendy. “We went in head first and have not missed a day of class.” Along the way, she earned the Fred-like award for the exceptional example she sets for others.

“From the moment Wendy became the AMT president, the club has been very professional and organized,” says Nicole Weiss, Medical Assisting Program Director. “The student society has done more in the last two months than in the last year. Wendy will go on to do great things in the medical field.”

Wendy has not looked at a hand-scratched reminder she wrote when she started her Medical Assisting program so many months ago. She wrote, “Remember…your purpose and why you’re doing this. Don’t waste time over thinking your abilities. You have a worth! Value what you are capable of doing and the difference you can make being part of it.”

Wendy intends to make her mark on this life she has been given – especially one that began amidst such anger and chaos. “Although my past was hurtful, I am not embarrassed by it,” she says. “I would only be embarrassed if I was that same person.”

Wendy shares her story in hopes that other students with experiences that are holding them back will find the strength to set themselves free.

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