With LOFT for almost two decades, Julio receives support for his physical health challenges and housing needs.
Julio is a client at our McEwan Housing and Support Services program. He lives with HIV and the health complications that come from being a long-term survivor of this illness. An inspiration to many, Julio is a gay man who has fought for his life and won – not once, but twice.
Julio was first referred to McEwan Housing and Support Services in 2004. As a Mexican immigrant living and working in Toronto, he had fallen ill due to untreated HIV. After collapsing on a subway platform, he was admitted to hospital where he remained in a coma for months. He awoke with little memory of his past. Unable to walk or feed himself, and no longer able to communicate in English, Julio was lost.
He was assigned a Community Support Worker who determined Julio’s nationality through his passport. Eager to help him recover his memory, and realizing that Julio could still communicate in Spanish, the support worker got creative. Members of the community were asked to visit Julio, sitting with him for hours describing different neighborhoods in Mexico. Slowly, Julio began to remember his earlier life in Mexico City.
It took two long years before Julio was able to reconnect with his family and let them know he was alive. During that time he learned to walk again, eventually moving back into the community with support from LOFT. Julio enjoyed his life listening to heavy metal music and rap, visiting friends, and attending weekly English classes.
Tragedy struck again in January 2020, when Julio became seriously ill after returning home from a trip to Mexico. Hospitalized for three months, he was intubated and unable to speak. A severe infection in his lungs was not responding to treatment, and doctors said there was no chance of recovery.
On Good Friday, during high COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, Julio’s Community Support Worker arranged for his family to say their final goodbyes via video call. Julio knew that he was loved.
The rest of the story is nothing short of a miracle. On Saturday, Julio sat up in bed. On Easter Sunday, he quietly asked for some food. What followed was another stunning recovery that took a full year, including a nine-month stay in hospital to regain his strength and learn — yet again — to walk.
In December of 2020, when Julio was ready to be discharged, he learned that he had contracted COVID-19. While his case was mild, and there appeared to be no long-term effects on his health, it took time to transition Julio out of the hospital. In April of 2021, he was able to return to his community with the help of LOFT’s Transitional Housing and Support Program.
Currently assisted by a wrap-around care team at our Pine Villa and McEwan Housing and Support Services programs, Julio is waiting for a unit in LOFT’s St. Anne’s Place senior residence. Those caring for him are grateful for the opportunity to witness and support his remarkable journey.