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From Wheelchair To Walking… To Living His Dream

Posted By By Aileen Provan, Tuesday, July 2, 2019

The remarkable story of a man’s recovery and the company who helped him get there.



If you’re a parent, you can probably relate to the chaos of life with a busy job, a commute and several young children, each requiring transportation to their various extra-curricular activities.

Add to that the challenge of being a part-time single parent, sharing custody with an ex-spouse. A hectic schedule, to say the least.

So, imagine yourself at the end of one such day, electing to take your children to a restaurant so that you can feed them more quickly, then having the unthinkable happen. A stroke.

That’s exactly what happened to young father, Francisco Gonzalez. During a restaurant dinner with his young children, he suddenly started to lose control of his right side and fell over in his chair, diners all around watching him and wondering what was happening.

Although he didn’t know it in that moment, Francisco was having a stroke that would prove to be debilitating - right in front of his children.

The beginning of a nightmare

That was just the start of Francisco’s nightmare. He recanted his experience in the hospital, aware of the emergency team working frenetically around him and thinking that his time was up.

“I told myself to just take a breath. And then another, and another. I kept going and today I’m still breathing!” said Francisco.

But, when he awakened in the hospital, Francisco had lost the use of his entire right side and had suffered damage to his speech, making communication almost impossible.

As a freelance programmer, Francisco’s future looked dim.

And things were about to get worse

The need to work to support his young children fueled Francisco’s fierce battle for recovery, living in a wheelchair and working diligently every day to recover mobility and speech, and enduring grueling physiotherapy treatments, with the hope of eventually returning to work.

And recover he did. If you were to talk to Francisco today, you wouldn’t have any idea that he’d had a stroke.

Feeling ready to enter the workforce again, Francisco started to contact recruiters for employment opportunities. And things seemed to be going well - until he mentioned his stroke. Imagine his humiliation, thinking that he had a chance at a job – a chance to support his family – only to receive no further communication or response to his follow-up efforts.

“I was afraid,” said Francisco. “I didn’t know if I would ever work again, or how I would support my children. Ever since I first touched a computer, I knew that I wanted to be a programmer. In just one year, with my divorce and then the stroke, I felt that I my life had been turned upside down; I had lost everything and I was losing hope.”

An angel in corporate clothing

It’s been said that angels appear in many forms. For Francisco, his appeared as a gift from his past.

In a spur of inspiration, he reached out to the company for which he had worked as a freelancer, Barcelona-based TOKIOTA, to discuss the possibility of a full-time role with the organization. Always pleased with the quality of his work, the principals agreed to talk to Francisco and considered a lighter role for him, such as testing. They tested him to ensure that he could achieve the required objectives – and his results were perfect. Francisco demonstrated that he still had excellent software development abilities and TOKIOTA welcomed him back in a full-time capacity.

“Paco, as he’s known to us at TOKIOTA, has been a colleague and friend for many years. We are a family at TOKIOTA, and we were all affected by what happened to him, so it wasn’t really a question of whether or not we should help, but how we could help him. Welcoming Paco back was a good decision for all of us, and we’re happy to have him as part of our team again. TOKIOTA didn’t have a particular diversity and inclusion policy before this situation occurred; it was just a part of how we operated naturally, which is a reflection of our inclusive culture.” - Toni Alarcón

Although Francisco has not recovered the use of his right hand, he can still code with his left, making it possible for him to continue the pursuit of his passion, utilize his skills, and make a decent living.

“I can’t believe what TOKIOTA has done for me. I am living my dream, doing what I love, and I can support my family again. Thank you, Toni Alarcón, Diego López-Pajares and my whole TOKIOTA family – you have made me whole again! And for anyone in a situation like mine, I have only one message: never, never give up. Never.  – Francisco Gonzalez

What does “Diversity and Inclusion” really mean?

“We are all different and, to us, that means opportunity. The chance to share and learn from different perspectives, to see things differently, and to grow together, makes us much more effective as a collective group. We can all benefit from embracing others, both in our personal and professional lives, and I encourage other companies facing situations such as this one to open their minds, eyes, and hearts to the scope of opportunity for all,” said Toni Alarcón.

We hope you’ve enjoyed Francisco’s inspiring story! How are you embracing diversity and inclusion in your organization? The IAMCP would love to share your story – you can submit your D & I experience to: intl.marcom@iamcp.org


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Comments on this post...

Reza Palizban says...
Posted Friday, July 26, 2019
Wow, Inspiring indeed. Thank you Aileen for the story and Sergio Baptista for promoting this via WIT. It's a lesson of the different ways people get affected professionally and not always what we expect. My dad had a stroke that permanently disabled him but there are many who survive and can function at a high level and should not be discriminated against.
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