HARLINGEN — When she retired after 30 years on the staff at Valley Baptist Medical Center, nurse Hilda Vallejo had a good idea of what her post-work life would be like.
Except it wasn’t.
“I started doing volunteer work here at Loaves and Fishes, and they had this position open and at that time I was in real need of money because my husband had been laid off and he had been sick,” she recalled. “It got to the point where you hit rock-bottom, and you have to go and ask people for food.
“It was embarrassing, but I said my family comes first, and I have to do what I have to do,” she said of her husband and two children.
At Valley Baptist, Hilda had worked as a licensed vocational nurse, or LVN, mostly in the Intensive Care Unit.
When Loaves and Fishes had received notice of a grant around two years ago from the Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation to fund a nurse for their small medical clinic, called Great Physician Healthy Living, Hilda thought it was a long shot lifeline.
“I applied and Pastor (Bill) Reagan looked through all my criteria, my critical care stuff, and I brought my certifications, and he was impressed,” she recalled. “And at that moment he said, ‘I don’t think I’ll look any further.’
“I was so honored,” she said.
Since then, Hilda has worked full-time checking blood pressure and blood sugar levels, screening patients and performing wound dressings, and just talking with people about their health and explaining their medications.
She works with the doctors and other medical staff in the clinic, and also goes to Raymondville once a week to check on patients there.
“I am an employee through Loaves and Fishes, but I work here in the clinic and I help the doctors out,” she said. “I have my protocols that I have to follow.”
Helping those in need who come to Loaves and Fishes is a reminder of how far she’s come since those days of her life which looked so bleak.
She knows who to thank.
“That is the power of the Lord,” Hilda says. “Because at that time, like I said, I had hit rock-bottom. I didn’t know what to do and I kept asking the Lord, ‘Please help me, God, because I can’t survive, my family can’t survive.’ He heard my plea and He helped.
“There’s always hope,” she advises, “and don’t lose your faith. Keep your faith because the Lord does miracles. I’ve seen them.”