Felix Bravo, known to all in his unique and tight-knit Arizona border community as “Don” Bravo, is a man of few words. The “Don” prefers to sit quietly and watch as the youngsters enjoy a special retirement party in the sparse but brightly decorated community center that the people here raised funds to build more than a decade ago.
Bravo is in his late 90s and has worked all his life in agriculture, in the fertile and sun-baked fields of south-eastern Arizona. The crops here are plentiful – avocados, tomatoes, chili seeds – and while many people don’t think of Arizona as a place of family farms, more than $23.5 billion a year in agricultural products are grown here and Arizona exports food to more than 70 countries around the world.
The settlement known as Winchester Heights, located in Cochise County, has emerged as a backbone of this important industry and has grown significantly over the years. An important part of this growth is the work of seasonal migrant agricultural workers – laborers and their families living in manufactured homes and trailers that line the dirt roads where children ride bikes and play soccer. Even routine healthcare would be a 2-hour drive away from this remote rural settlement so Chiricahua Community Health Centers, Inc. brings a mobile medical clinic to the community center every Wednesday, and today, Don Bravo is attending the retirement celebration for Jane, a nurse practitioner who has been working here since before the community center was built.
Chiricahua is this county’s only Federally Qualified Health Center and provides health and dental care to all – regardless of ability to pay. Chiricahua has been working in Winchester Heights for many years.
Don Bravo sits before the assembled party of Jane’s patients, co-workers and friends and there’s a hush as he tells the group how she advocated for him with a cardiac surgeon from Tucson who had determined that Bravo was too old to make the surgery viable – this was more than five years ago. He describes to laughter from the group how she wouldn’t take no for an answer; they all know Jane and her tenacious spirit, and this is no surprise. Bravo credits Jane with saving his life. The primary care she provides to his family and community is priceless, but Jane is a true Chiricahuan and doesn’t stop there. Over the years she has raised private funds to help Bravo’s family with the cost of his heart medication and to purchase a heater for their home.
The story he wants everyone to hear today, though, is how Jane took on the Tucson surgeon and changed the course of Bravo’s treatment and the rest of his life. More than five years have passed since his life-saving heart surgery and he’s sad to see Jane go, but in his long life he’s learned that there is a season for everything. With Chiricahua’s help, Don Bravo’s growing season has been extended, he wishes Jane well on her next adventures and welcomes the new health care providers who will now tend to the Don’s flock.