Success Stories

Hector Morales

Hector’s Story: Walking Tall with the Magic Man

Hector Morales is a striking man when you first meet him. At 6 feet, 5 inches tall, he’s slender with sharp facial features and a goatee. He’s known to wear a coat and tie to conduct his daily business and will accessorize by donning denim jeans with black and white tennis shoes. A black Darth Vader ring and other silver and black jewelry completes his ensemble. With such a unique personal style, it’s not surprising to learn that Morales is a skilled magician and has performed on several TV talent shows, mystifying audiences with his card tricks. Like many people living with diabetes, he fights a daily battle to keep his blood sugar under control by taking his medications religiously every day, eating balanced meals and exercising whenever possible. Magic does little good here; staying healthy takes hard work and commitment. Morales also credits doctors at the Center for Limb Preservation & Advanced Wound Care at White Memorial Medical Center for saving his feet.“I’m very thankful for what the doctors and support staff at Adventist Health White Memorial have done for me,” Morales said. “I don’t think that I could be any happier with the treatment and care that I received during my hospital stays and my follow-up visits.”

“I was checking my feet for any bruising, cuts or abrasions,” Morales said. “And I noticed about an inch of skin underneath my right big toe was peeling back.” As a diabetic, Morales knows that when a patient comes in to the Emergency Department (ED) with a foot ulcer or infection, the Diabetes Foot Team is quickly called in to action to diagnose the patient.

The team is made up of a podiatry resident, a teaching podiatrist, a vascular surgeon, an infectious disease specialist and a radiologist subspecializing in bone disease. Loss of time can lead to loss of a limb – our team’s goal is to make a difference between losing and keeping a limb by bringing all the specialists to the patient. “This is how the Center for Limb Preservation & Advanced Wound Care saves limbs and saves lives,” said Dr. Brian Johnston, Co-Medical Director for the Center. “If you lose your leg or a limb you may lose your capacity to earn and your mobility. This can then lead to other life-altering conditions such as cardiovascular disease, kidney failure, heart attack and stroke. Time is of the essence, and our Center is here to ensure better outcomes for our patients performed in a timely, cost-effective manner.” Having the ability to diagnose and treat all in one center may mean the difference between keeping or losing a limb. Time and attention certainly made the difference for Morales. “Had I not checked my feet on a daily basis, I may have lost my foot from the ankle down.”

Last June, Morales while checking his feet, found a small black dot on the ball of his left foot which after a few days turned into a blood blister about two inches in length. Morales rushed himself to the ED at White Memorial Medical Center. Dr. Stanley Mathis, the Co-Medical Director of the Center, checked Morales’ foot and determined that emergency surgery was necessary. “Dr. Mathis told me that he wouldn’t know if he would be able to save my foot until after conducting surgery,” Morales said. After the surgery was completed, Morales received encouraging news while he was in the recovery room. “Dr. Mathis explained that I had developed gangrene, but that my foot was salvageable, and had I waited an additional 12-24 hours, he was sure that my foot would have been amputated.” Morales subsequently underwent several outpatient stem cell skin grafts in order to complete his healing process.

ShoesMorales has a long family history of diabetes. His father died from complications of the disease and his mother and several uncles, aunts and cousins have also contracted the ailment. A confirmed bachelor, Morales lives at home with his mother, who helps him manage his diabetes. “My mother is my best friend,” Morales said. “She makes sure I don’t forget or put off taking my medication.” Morales has come to grips with the disease and knows that he should have made some critical lifestyle changes a lot sooner. “I wish now that I had taken better care of myself as soon as I was diagnosed with diabetes,” Morales said. “When I started losing sensation in my toes, it really opened my eyes.”

Does Morales have any advice for other people living with diabetes? He says a good balanced diet and regular exercise are important to control blood sugar levels, especially when you’re first diagnosed with the disease. And for those who have had diabetes for a longer period of time, it’s important to check your limbs regularly. “This is a must for those of us who have lost nerve impulses in our feet that prevent us from feeling pain,” Morales said. “Without this sensation, our brain thinks all is well when in fact something might be going on with our feet.” He also wants to get the message out to as many people as possible. “I appreciate the opportunity to save any and every limb I can by bringing heightened awareness and education to other people with diabetes,” Morales said. “If I can save one person from amputation, this outreach effort will have been worth the time and energy!”Morales, who hasn’t been able to work in recent years because of issues with his feet, is on the road to recovery. He has spent more than 20 years in retail sales management and the home mortgage industry. He hopes to return to work soon.

Perhaps more importantly, Morales wants to sharpen his magic act and plans to audition for upcoming seasons of “America’s Got Talent,” “Tengo Talento, Mucho Talento” on Estrella TV, and the world famous Magic Castle in Hollywood. At the very least, Morales will soon be back on his feet again thanks to the experts at the Center for Limb Preservation & Advanced Wound Care at Adventist Health White Memorial.