"Her Achilles heel was turned into gold"

Maria is studying medicine at the university. She is cheerful, enjoys life, has many siblings, and many more friends. At first glance, it seems a life to envy. Nevertheless, like everyone, Maria also has her Achilles heel.

María cannot conceal the fact that she has a problem. She has grown up with it, and it has become part of her life. Over time (she is now 21) she has seen the condition worsen. She has learned to put up with it, although at times it gets the upper hand. Besides, she knows that she will always have to live with it, since her condition – spina bifida – has no cure.

María’s real problem is that she constantly needs to be with other people. To be with dozens of people who love her and ask for her time: friends from school, friends from her neighborhood, friends from her club, cousins, siblings, nieces and nephews… Because she is a very special person.

She herself says that what makes her special, the best part of her, what inevitably makes her the center of attention, is owed to her spina bifida. She was born in spite of it. “In spite of,” because if it had not been for the efforts of María Jesús, her mother, the doctors would have seen to it that she would never have been born. “She will be a vegetable,” they claimed. The best prognosis, which she received a few years later from a nurse, was: “She will never get up from a wheelchair.”

But the pair “María Jesús–María” overcame all those calculations with the force of faith, of sacrifice, of tenacity. “Try it,” María heard her mother say every time she asked her if she could ride a bicycle, jump rope, run after her brothers “If you can’t do it, it won’t be because you haven’t tried.”

So she came to realize that she should never place limits on herself, and that “everyone, absolutely everyone, has barriers that we need to put up with.”

On reaching adolescence, when her mind rebelled at the idea of others seeing her as different, María decided that those who looked at her with surprise on the street would receive an unexpected reply: her smile. “Because, she says, if God wanted me to stand out in this way, most probably it was because those people needed to take away a nice reply from me.” Overcoming their curiosity, that smile of hers would remain engraved on the memory of those onlookers, who might even think that they had always known her.

María knew that she was being formed by a great Sculptor, as though with a hammer and chisel, from which emerged a strong, self-sacrificing person, with a will of steel – a “friend” of pain and all those who were suffering, with a contagious joy and love for life, a life filled with other people.

So she has never worried about always getting “A”s in the three years she has been studying medicine. Because her life is filled with everything that is truly important to her: God, her family, her many friends, her hobbies. And she will be happy to be a doctor who graduates with a “B+.”

Above all, her anchors have been God and her mother. As the poet Luis Rosales wrote: “both wine and the person are known by their mother.”