AN ADVOCATE FOR BODY, MIND AND SOUL
Fred Sandoval’s entire career has centered on health and human services. His long résumé includes leadership roles at the state Health Department and with organizations focused on behavioral health issues. Over his 61 years he has developed a deep understanding of health care and health systems. But it was his family’s personal experiences and cultural values that significantly shaped his views of health and wellness and broadened them to include physical, mental, emotional, financial and spiritual aspects.
When Sandoval grew up in Santa Fe during the 1950s and 1960s, his mother cared for her nine children by using home
remedios to cure ailments. Homegrown spearmint treated stuffy noses. Peeled and sliced potatoes dipped in vinegar and applied to foreheads drew out fevers. Doctor visits weren’t part of their cultural practice.
His parents’ strong work ethic made him more resilient to the stress of making it on his own as a young man. He did whatever he needed to do to support himself: loading 50-pound bags of chemicals at a greenhouse and working retail off-hours for extra money. “I give credit to that influence, my protective factors that made me realize I had the capacity to deal with challenges,” he said.
Later in his adulthood, Sandoval saw how a disease can alter a person’s trajectory. It was family who led him through this journey too.
One of his sisters, Esther, was discharged from the army because of an illness, later diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenia, a brain disorder that causes delusions. The chronic disease unraveled her life. She divorced, lost custody of her children and spent a decade in and out of homelessness, hospitals, jails, shelters and people’s homes. She was referred to the Sangre de Cristo Mental Health Center, where Sandoval was director.
“We learned treatment can work if you can get it,” Sandoval said. “In addition to treatment, she had a stable place to live, where she was safe. That changed her life.”
It changed Sandoval’s life too. “The end product was I became an advocate,” he said. “I get to advocate for her and for people like her.”
Today Sandoval nurtures his own wellness by faithfully attending Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. “Spirituality helps us to understand how to cope, seek help, manage our wellness and release pain by asking for forgiveness,” he said.
He treats ailments with curandero (a Spanish term for a traditional healer) approaches involving aromatherapy, massage, prayers and other rituals. And he relies on the cultural value of music — a personal method for coping and healing — that was imprinted on him in the church pew long ago.
“My dad passed away at age 94, and my mom is still alive at 94,” he said. “It makes me understand the value of how long we can live and what it takes to get there. They ate well, worked hard and were active in all their pursuits, especially their spiritual pursuits. Underlying it all was their strength and their sense of resilience.”