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Mary Joya is a finalist in FOX 5’s Remarkable Women 2022 initiative, which recognizes the valuable contributions women have made in our community and beyond.

She joined the FOX 5 Morning News on March 15 to share what she has done to help her family and those in need in the community.

For almost 28 years, Joya was her husband’s main caregiver until he died four years ago. Dr. Danny Joya was in the process of taking the medical board exam in San Diego when he was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) and Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy (CIDP).

“Within six months, he was paralyzed from the neck down,” said Mary Joya, who also was pregnant at the time. “And at the point in our life, our whole world just crashed. This man went to school to become a physician and now he’s helpless.”

Joya said she had to take care of her husband, all while working full-time at Scripps Health.

“It was very challenging, difficult,” she said. “We didn’t know what our future was going to be because I have to jump in my role as a caregiver, at the same time a breadwinner, to be able to pay the medical bills, take care of my two children.”

Although her faith was tested during this difficult period, Joya said “through God’s Grace, we were able to persevere.”

But in 2012, her husband’s airway closed.

“He was incubated and put on life support,” Joya said. “At that point, I realized there was no way I could care for him at home, so he was at a subacute nursing home for six years until he went home to heaven.”

She said during her husband’s time at the subacute nursing home, she realized a lot of the people living there were “lonely, broken and depressed.” That sparked the idea of her helping those in assistance living facilities.

“When Saddleback opened up a campus here in San Diego, I became their community ambassador. I told them, ‘I don’t want to be an ambassador, I’m a caregiver, I want to go hands-on.’ They said we need a leader, so I accepted,” she said.

Joya says her church goes to four assisted living homes.

“We bring a church experience to the facility, we encourage the residents, we pray with them, we would give them hope,” she said. “I did as much as I could to be able to make every Sunday to be uplifting for them.”