Napoleon Coca, a Program Coordinator with the Hidalgo County Urban County Program, who is also known as “Danny,” sat down with us to share how the Hidalgo County Wellness Program was part of his decision to take the extra steps to a healthy life.
“I think it’s a sign from God,” Coca recalled the time when he first heard about the Wellness Program. “I see it as something really special.”
Before learning about the program, Coca says he was really reckless with his eating habits. He was working two jobs. He was also in school working for his master’s degree, which led him to not sleeping very well.
The added stress and pressure on Coca led to a crucial turning point in his life.
“I remember getting back from school from my evening class and then all of a sudden I couldn’t speak,” Coca recalled. “It was October 20 of 2018. I remember because I turned on the game, then my young one, my little one, called me, ‘hey, dad.’ You know. I usually help him with homework. I was going to read him something and I just couldn’t.”
Coca had suffered a minor stroke.
He went to Monterrey, Mexico to see a neurologist, because the earliest Coca would be able to see one in the U.S. was in a month. In Mexico, doctors told him he had a blockage on the left side of his brain, impacting his ability to speak.
Doctors prescribed him medication but told him he needed to cut foods, exercise, and undergo therapy to speak again. Doctors told him he wasn’t going to be “speaking 100% right off the bat.” Coca was expected to be speaking at around 90% in a year.
Coca mentioned he was a runner in high school and college. So, he took up the challenge to get back into shape by walking and later jogging. Around the same time, Hidalgo County announced the establishment of the Wellness Program.
“I took it, to me, as a sign. You know — no excuses,” he said. “I thought it was super neat that this program came about.”
Coca says the Wellness Program motivated him. He started tuning in to the webinars, taking advantage of the program’s services, and attending special events. He says he took the time to pay attention and read the material provided. He also encourages his colleagues to do the same.
“[The webinars] doesn’t just talk about exercise and it’s not about losing weight either. It’s just about staying active,” said Coca.
Six months after being involved in the Wellness Program and about a year after his stroke, Coca says doctors told him he no longer needed to be on medication. He credits cutting out “bad foods” from his diet and running three to four times a week.
Coca says he always shares his story with others, hoping to instill some inspiration for them to take their first steps towards a healthier lifestyle. He mentioned a colleague he would frequently talk to, who is now retired, picked up on his activity, and has stuck with it — even his boss.
“Instead of just being on the couch, just go walk or something. I take evening walks at home with my kids,” Coca said. “It makes you feel good. After every run — it’s the best feeling! I tell people, you don’t have to run, you can just walk or fast walk. That’s it.”
He hopes the Wellness Program doesn’t diminish and that more Hidalgo County employees will take advantage of what it provides, “They need to just take advantage of it. It saves you money on going to the doctor too. That’s the truth. You’d rather pay $40 to go get medication versus don’t take medication and feel better? You have to see it like [an investment].”
Coca mentioned lifestyle changes improved the health of family members, such as his mother and sister. He passes on the information the Wellness Program provides to them.
“There’s a lot of different ways that the program has out there to tell you, let’s do this or you can do this. It’s true. It’s on the website, or you get it on the newsletter too. I like it. It’s a big positive thing that we have here. I don’t think anybody else has it,” Coca said.