A Tragic Past Leads to a Satisfying Future
Eight years ago Herman Roque’s doctor told him he was going to die. He had been an addict for 20 years while hiding it from his family, his friends, and his co-workers. But after two decades it caught up with him, and he got a blood infection that caused respiratory failure, kidney failure, and paralyzation from the neck down. At that point, says Herman, he started going through the five stages of grief and stopped at No. 3.
“When I got to bargaining,” he says, “I began bargaining my tail off. I said, ‘If I get out of this, I promise I’ll help others to not get in this situation.”
Although Herman “coded” three times and required two tracheotomies, he didn’t die. He spent more than two years in the hospital getting therapy (and gained some movement in his upper body as a result), and he started a lifetime of dialysis.
“When I got to the lowest point, I knew I had to get off drugs to save my life. That’s when my life changed. As soon as I was well enough, I started my journey to make good on my promise.”
He earned his GED at adult school and then searched for a way to help others. When he found out about Merritt’s Community Social Services Program, he knew that was his calling. Last year Herman got his certificate in substance abuse counseling with a high GPA, multiple awards, and a membership in the Phi Theta Kappa honor society. He plans to attend Cal State East Bay.
He is also interning at Second Chances in Hayward to complete the 2200 hours he needs to become a state-certified counselor. “This is the best job I’ve ever had. I can’t believe they are going to pay me to do it someday,” he says. “There’s no better feeling than to help someone get their life back.”
Herman thanks his instructor Dr. Bill Love for being “tough” on him and the Disability Services folks, including Ron Nelson and Mary Ciddio, for all of their support. Says Mary: “Herman is a determined and humble man and always has a smile on his face. He is an inspiration to us all!
Herman is in great need of a van to take himself to work and school as he cannot sit for long periods without being in a lot of pain. If anyone has resources to help him, please call him directly at (510) 575-7917.