To see them now — strong, smiling, determined — you’d never know the hell that Jeff Hull and Tammy Pérez had just returned from.
A couple since the day they met (April 19, 2010), they’ve overcome their respective battles and have now joined forces in Crossroads of Hope, a music/comedy/art event that benefits the American Diabetes Association’s Step Out: Walk to STOP Diabetes program Saturday at Tri-Point.
Pérez suffered from type 1 diabetes for 17 years, taking insulin shots four times a day. But in 2000 she rebelled against her disease and started drinking and partying like crazy while living with a boyfriend in Indiana. This behavior continued until 2003. “I wanted to feel like a normal person who could drink and have fun at my age, and not worry about having diabetes,” she told the Current. “It wasn’t a good idea.”
Pérez left the boyfriend and came back to San Antonio to clean up her act. In 2006, she graduated as a pharmacy technician from the San Antonio College of Medical and Dental Assistants (now Kaplan College). But then she lost vision in both eyes and had to undergo surgeries and laser treatment.
“I regained vision in my right eye, but I lost 70 to 80 percent vision on the left eye and can no longer drive at night,” she said.
But the worst was still to come. On Memorial Day of 2007 she was put on dialysis and a waiting list for a kidney transplant; nine months later her brother became her donor. “It took to my body very well and I have not yet seen another dialysis needle since then,” she said.
But Pérez’s ordeal wasn’t over — she also needed a pancreas, which she received in January 2010. “I have been diabetes-free ever since, and since Jeff and I met we’ve been inseparable. On January 1 the American Diabetes Association manager asked me if I would like to join the ADA committee. I happily did and now I commit myself in doing what I can to help raise awareness of diabetes and raise money to help find a cure.”
Hull was never a diabetic, but his drug addiction rendered him first homeless and then in jail, for stealing anything he could to sustain his habit.
“Yes, I am a convicted felon,” he said. “I spent many years living on the streets of San Antonio and in and out of jails and institutions. I battled crack and cocaine/IV drug use for at least 15 years.”
Inspired by an Artist’s Way class given by local visual artist Aminah Ulmer, Hull started painting and says he’s been clean for almost seven years. Some of his original paintings will be sold at the silent auction on Saturday.
While it’s easy to sympathize with Pérez’s story, not everyone will vouch for Hull. While ghosts from his past came out to criticize his involvement in the event on Facebook recently, the ADA are standing by Hull and Pérez.
“Step Out is one of the larger events for the American Diabetes Association, and Jeff and Tammy have given us no reason to doubt them,” ADA manager Kristina Cárdenas, one of the event’s speakers, told the Current in an email Monday. “They have done an amazing job planning the event and I know it will definitely show on Saturday.”
“It just made sense, after `Tammy and I got` together, that we would do events like this,” Hull said, adding that $10 is only a suggested donation price. “We’re not going to turn anyone away if they have no money. So please come, have fun, and help fight diabetes.”
11am-5pm Saturday, May 7
Tri-Point, 3233 N St. Mary’s
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