Friends banding together in support of woman with brain injury

SAN ANTONIO – Friends of a woman who is fighting to stay alive after suffering a severe brain injury from an accident are banding together to support her and her family.

Friends said Elizabeth Garcia, 47, was leaving work when she missed her turn and drove off the roadway near Loop 410 and Seguin Road.

“Unfortunately, she wasn’t wearing her seat belt and got ejected from the car and got pinned between the car and railroad tracks,” said Alvino Cuevas, one of Garcia’s close friends. “When we found out about the accident, it was a tragic day. We were shocked because we just saw her two days before.”

They said because of the accident, Garcia is currently on life support in the Intensive Care Unit at the Brooke Army Medical Center.

“She was swollen,” said Michelle Munoz, another close friend of Garcia's. “Her eyes were purple. Her head was shaved. It was devastating.”

“When we got there, my wife just said, ‘Oh my gosh!’ She was unrecognizable,” Cuevas said. “She is always a high maintenance person, very beautiful. (She) takes care of herself and (is) always dressing to impress, so to see her in that condition is not what we are used to.”

Garcia went by Lisa Sunshine or Elizabeth Sunshine. Her friends said she went by those names for a reason.

“That love, that glowing smile — she brightened your day,” Cuevas said.

“She loved her wigs and making us laugh,” said Adelfa Diaz, a close friend of Garcia's. “Even when she was going through what she was going through, she didn’t want to burden anyone with her problems.”

Though Garcia wore a big welcoming and loving smile on her face everywhere she went, she had many obstacles she was up against before the accident.

Garcia's friends said her 13-year-old son is paralyzed from the waist down from an accidental shooting. They said she was also staying with them because after her son was admitted to the hospital, she was evicted from her home.

Cuevas said the ultimate obstacle they learned about two days prior to her accident was that Garcia was diagnosed with cancer.

“You wouldn’t have known she was even sick just by looking at her,” Munoz said. “She was full of life, always happy. She was always there for support, no matter what. She strived to be the helper in every situation.”

Munoz said she is especially heartbroken because she grew up with Garcia.

“She was my oldest sister’s best friend,” Munoz said. “I was the baby. She was the person I could talk to. She was my rock. She never let me go through anything alone. She is who I would go to, and now I don’t know who to go to. I need her.”

Diaz said she has known Garcia since they were 17.

“She is a beautiful woman,” Diaz said. “Her spirit, her soul — everything is beautiful. Everyone noticed Liz when she walked into a room. We became women, and I saw her go through all the stuff she dealt with her son.”

Diaz said Garcia was not only a hardworking woman but a mother who sacrificed for her child, as well. 

“She would do anything and everything for her son,” Diaz said. “When he was in the hospital, she would go to work and get off and sleep with her son every night to make sure he was OK. We are just really missing her right now. We love her so much. She is like a sister to all of us.”

Garcia's friends said they became friends with each other thanks to Garcia bringing them together.

“When we visit her at her hospital bed, we speak to her, even though she is unconscious,” Cuevas said. “She is a fighter. She is definitely a fighter. She would twitch sometimes while we are talking and the nurses will say it could be a reflex. We tell her, ‘We know you hear us. It is OK. Calm down. We’ll take care of everything.”

They said they are hopeful, but they are preparing for any scenario to unfold.

“All the damage was done to her head. So she has what they consider one of the most severe brain injuries you could have. It is (diffuse axonal injury) to the third degree, so her chances of waking up, we don’t know,” Munoz said. “It is a waiting game, and it’s not looking as hopeful as we wished.”

“I knew the thing that was going to come up immediately was going to be whether it was treatment for recovery or worse,” Cuevas said. “So we knew she would need funds to be able to do that.”

Cuevas, Munoz, Diaz and their friend, Joe Garza, have coordinated a special fundraising event for Garcia to help financially. The event will take place at the Zombies Bar and Live Music Venue from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.

“We have gotten a lot of donations and food,” Cuevas said. “That day, there will be food. At least six bands are coming out to play for free, a lot of volunteers giving their time for free. There will be a big bounce house for kids. Everything we are spending to make this happen is coming out-of-pocket, but all of the donations we get from the event will go directly to Lisa.”

While they continue to plan for the event, they are also raising awareness about the importance of appreciating your loved ones, as well as the importance of wearing a seat belt.

“Always wear a seat belt. You never know. It might not be you. It could be the person driving right next to you, but you don’t want to give anyone the regret of ‘What if?’" Cuevas said. "It saved my life when I got hit by a drunken driver. I could have gotten ejected. I had several injuries from the seat belt, but I lived. I just wished she was wearing hers. I would just say, appreciate everyone who is in your life every day, because they may not be around tomorrow.

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