LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Imagine being grateful that you have the “gift” of an excruciating disease.
One woman shared with CBS2 and KCAL9, how just such an illness became her way of helping other.
“I’m just so thankful that I can help people,” says Peggy Santa Maria.
“I was screaming out, rocking in pain,” said Diana Puig of San Diego.
“The only relief I could get was the morphine,” said Denise Montoya of Torrance.
“People, when you’re sick, they just want to close the door on you,” said Peggy. That is why she did just the opposite.
Peggy Santa Maria of San Lorenzo, California opened her doors, her home, and her heart to fellow sufferers.
For the past 15 years, she and her husband Roy have opened their home to other women dealing with the disease endometriosis. (The disease involves tissue that normally lines the uterus forming on the outside of the uterus.)
“She’s an angel walking on Earth,” said Puig.
Montoya said she was her “comforter-in-chief” as she recovered from surgery.
Since their early teens, every month, the disease absolutely tortured both women with bleeding and pain.
Both traveled to the Bay Area to meet specialist Dr. Andrew Cook. Neither could find relief closer to home in Southern California.
“I’m treating it with the same techniques as we would treating a cancer,” said Dr. Cook.
Peggy is also one of his patients.
“I have this disease,” says Peggy, “And I don’t know why I was chosen by God to have this, but I’ve got it.”
She understands all too well the burden sickness can place on a family. The severity of the illness landed her on disability years ago.
Roy lost his job in 2009. Because their home is about a half hour from Dr. Cook’s, they named their guest room “The Endo Inn.”
Peggy loves hearts and Dalmatians and filled her guest room with both.
The Endo Inn is open to any woman visiting the Bay Area who is undergoing endometriosis treatment.
“Part of the healing process is to show love and to show caring, and we felt that we could do that.” Peggy says.
Women who visit the inn are greeted with a card and a gift.
“We always want to have something for them, to let them know they’re special and we’re glad you’re here,” Peggy said.
The rate for a room at the inn?
“We don’t want you to pay anything,” she says.
Patients are just encouraged to leave a note to help others
“Everybody has their own story,” Peggy says.
The stories and sentiments that now fill the pages of Peggy’s most treasured possession — the guestbook.
Peggy reads from some of the letters.
“Thanks for picking me up and taking me to my post op,”reads one. “I thank God for you every day,” reads another, “You give hope to the hopeless.”
Despite aggressive treatments, Peggy herself has not been cured. She still suffers.
“It would have been very easy for her to become very bitter, or too hurt to reach out,” says Diana, “but she never let the disease stop her.”
On the contrary. She’s not stopping and still upbeat.
“I’m so glad I have this disease,” she says, matter-of-fact, “Now, doesn’t that seem strange? Because if I didn’t have endometriosis, I wouldn’t know what I was talking about.”
“She made me feel so good,” said Denise who is eternally grateful.
“I love her, God bless her. I wish I could do more for her. She definitely made a huge difference in my life, she really did.”
The next woman who visits will be number 120.
“They never say goodbye,” says Peggy, “that would just be too final. We stand out there and wave to them and say ‘so long. Until next time.'”
Not only does Peggy invite women into her home, she also takes crisis calls from women suffering from endometriosis 24-7.
Story Produced for TV by Gerri Shaftel Constant, CBS2 & KCAL9 Medical Producer
For more information about Peggy Santa Maria, click here.
If you have endometriosis and would like to contact Peggy you can write her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at (510) 276-4205
For more info about endometriosis, click here.
For more about surgeon Dr. Andrew Cook, click here.