Constance (Connie) Hurtado, of Romeoville, has survived domestic abuse, cancer and the death of her 2-day-old, first-born daughter, Yasmine. Managing pain produced by that level of trauma usually requires a written prescription from a licensed medical professional, but the antidote that’s been placed into Connie’s palm isn’t a pill, it’s a microphone.
I was at a business writing conference at the Hilton in Oak Lawn when I first learned about Connie. The SkillPath facilitator, Dr. Mike Searcy, and I found ourselves swallowed by an empty conference room with a shared concept for brown-bagging our lunch. The other conference participants had chosen to go elsewhere.
An awkward silence fell as he and I began to compete for the opportunity to share our ideas and thoughts on life. During that exchange, he played a brief video clip of his mentor, Connie, speaking during a rotary club meeting. Just watching the first few minutes was enough to reel me in.
“Can you get me her information? I want the details of this story,” I said.
Connie led me back to when she was a 21-year-old self-proclaimed hothead that rebelled against the rules of her family household. “I got kicked out of the house so I moved in with a boyfriend,” said Connie. “He was taking care of me. Things started off so well. He was so kind and helpful.”
Within six months, things took a turn for the worst.
“I was a waitress; I needed to be friendly with everyone to make tips,” explained Connie. “He felt threatened and started being very insecure. That’s when the abuse began. The first time he attacked me it felt like it went on for a lifetime. I had neighbors, I screamed for help. Either they didn’t hear me or they didn’t care because nobody came.”
To her own admission, Connie didn’t confide in her family because she had too much pride.
“I was ashamed to let them know they were right about my poor choices.” It took a village of friends and co-workers to help her breakaway from her abuser, she said.
A couple of years later, now in a new relationship, Connie said she received the shock of her life during a routine appointment with her gynecologist.
“They told me I had cervical cancer.” She elaborated. “I had to have surgery to remove a portion of my cervix. I was told it wouldn’t reduce my chances of conceiving, but it could affect my ability to carry a baby to term.”
One year post surgery, Connie and her boyfriend anticipated the arrival of their baby girl, Yasmine. She was born three months premature and suffered severe medical complications.
Connie recalled the two days Yasmine lived. “I gave her a bath, her first feeding and cradled her in my arms until she breathed her last breath.”
She said she was bitter for a long time.
“I wasn’t advised to fight for my daughter. I didn’t know what to do, I was young. The doctor and the counselor told me she wouldn’t live or if she did, she’d have a poor quality of life. They pressured me hard to let her go.”
The pain of losing Yasmine put a strain on Connie’s relationship and shortly thereafter she found herself single again, but it wasn’t for long. She met Jesus Hurtado in 2007 and they married in 2011. Jesus and Connie have since given birth to three healthy children. Junior is 9, Jasmine is 5, and Vanessa is 3 years old.
“I married an amazing man,” Connie said. “Jesus adores me and the kids. He makes me feel treasured.”
Connie said she’s found great liberation and freedom in sharing her story.
“The first time I shared I'd experienced domestic abuse, I was just offering a shoulder to a friend. I could sense she was having problems with her boyfriend. She didn’t want to tell me what was going on until I began to tell her what had happened to me. Once she knew I could relate, she began to trust me. After that, I knew I had to share my story with the world. Even if it only means saving a couple of people, it’s worth everything.”
Connie completed the John C. Maxwell leadership training program in August and is now booking speaking engagements in various places around the Chicago area.
“I want people to know that everyone suffers feelings of defeatism in life, but it doesn’t mean you have to live defeated. You can choose the kind of life you want. All that’s needed is a little bit of guidance and self-understanding. Right now can be a new beginning to the life you want. Where you are now is not where you have to end. You can take you where you want to go.”
To learn more about Connie, visit www.voicesliberated.com.
The National Domestic Abuse hotline is (800) 799- 7233. The advocates are available 24/7 in over 170 languages.
For those seeking assistance handling the loss of a child, the Advocate Family Care Network may be a valuable resource. Visit http://www.advocatechildrenshospital.com/familycarenetwork.
Claudia Parker is an Evergreen Park mother, author and runner whose columns appear in The Reporter.