Luis Orta is a survivor. After two heart attacks, an infection in his spine and being homeless for the past few years – he has beaten all of the odds and now lives in his own apartment.
He is a U.S. Army Veteran who served overseas in Germany where he got married and stayed in the country for 30 years. “I had a really good job as a mechanic,” he says, “I remember ending my post in the Army on a Friday and starting my job, working for the German government, the next Monday.”
When Luis was vacationing in the Dominican Republic, he was in a diving accident that caused a life-threatening infection in his spine. He ended up in the hospital for a year and a half before his infection was cleared.
He says, “At that time, my job only paid me half of my normal salary and the insurance covered me for six months. I still had to go to some specialists so that’s when I decided to go back to the States and get my benefits through the VA [Veteran’s Administration].”
Things didn’t go as planned when Luis decided to move back home to the U.S. His wife was a German citizen and didn’t want to leave her family, so they ended up getting a divorce. Luis had relatives in Florida, but he didn’t want to burden them so he decided to make it on his own and stay in local shelters.
Shortly after arriving in Orlando, he suffered two different heart attacks and now has a pace maker to regulate and monitor his heart.
“My first one was in March of 2016. I had open heart surgery and they made a mistake and punctured my aortic valve. A few months later, they gave me another surgery to fix it. Then after that, I had another heart attack one day when I was at the bus station,” says Luis.
Despite all of what he’s gone through, Luis didn’t let anything discourage him. He came to the Coalition after the VA’s recommendation and was assigned to Veteran Services Case Manager, Al McKinnon at the Men’s Service Center.
“Luis’ willingness to be successful was his driving factor and his determination was inspiring to see. It gives me great honor to know that, just maybe, I helped him on his way,” says McKinnon.
“The Coalition helped me a lot because I can move myself. They just always kept an eye on me. Al would always ask how I was doing. I was able to go out and make my appointments without worrying about if I had a bed to sleep in or a meal. I tried my best and I have succeeded. This place has helped me do that,” Luis says.
He worked with Al and the VA who helped him receive a HUD-VASH voucher and, within five months, he moved into a nearby duplex apartment.
“I woke up the first morning in my own apartment and I finally felt free again. I’m working on taking care of my health, so that’s my priority right now,” adds Luis, “I’m so happy, I feel like I could dance in the streets!”