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Aug 3, 2023

Reformed Gang Member Now Caretaker to People with Open Flesh Wounds

Open wounds like bedsores are conditions of the skin and flesh that most of us do not want to talk about because of the unpleasant nature of the topic. And that is usually the reason why people with these flesh wounds are avoided and live to suffer in silence. But out of the woodwork – literally from the streets, came a man, a former gang member, who endured the pain of seeing his own son suffer and upon helping him to heal, decided to lend a hand to others in similar situations of need. In this week’s edition of Belize on Reel, we take a look at Jose Zelaya, Senior, who has transformed his past in the streets to someone who now saves lives. He does this through the assistance of another man who can be called Belize’s own Good Samaritan, Albert Magdaleno. Marion Ali reports.


Marion Ali, Reporting

At first glance, Jose Zelaya Senior could pass for a trained medical doctor treating a patient. But he’s not. In fact, for decades, Zelaya was a man with a colourful past who was well known to police. Now, he is a reformed gang member – a man who has gone from a rebel to a caregiver, helping people with open flesh wounds to heal.


Jose Zelaya, Sr., Bedsore Specialist

Jose Zelaya Sr.

“This give me an opportunity fi mek I change my whole life. Three months ago I still mi di move round shaky. Three months later now, I think yoh could see it. And I feel good. I neva feel soh good like how I feel now with the work weh I di do.”


Zelaya’s turning point came three months ago when his paralyzed son, Marco, was suffering from two open foot sores.


Marco Zelaya

Marco Zelaya, Has Healed Flesh Wound

“Back eena 2019, I mi get shot five time – once eena my head, twice eena my back and twice eena my shoulder. Ih start from a bruise, then the doctor dehn she ih turn like into a water bruise, then after that dehn peel it, then after that like ih just start to turn out. Then ih turn like a bed sore, yoh know. The whole heel, everything like ih just eat out, soh when my pa see that, the two heel heel dehn start to eat out. When my pa see that, I mi deh da hospital. He neva like it soh he decide fi bring me home and give me fi he care.”


Marco explained that his father relentlessly began an aggressive treatment on his two feet that eventually healed.


Marco Zelaya

“He end up di bring me home and he start to tek care ah me and clean up my wounds dehn and dress deh up, buy cream, get dressings, get different thing fi try – gauze – all kinda ting. Soh up to today dat da the outcome how ih fully heal up.”


Jose Zelaya was able to help his son because quietly, he had turned to a man known for helping Belizeans through his popular Facebook page, Ladyville Highlights. Albert Magdaleno told News Five how he managed to assist Zelaya.


Albert Magdaleno, Good Samaritan

Albert Magdaleno

“Mr. Zelaya used to come to my house for assistance with gauze, medical supplies for his son. At that time I had never ever met his son and one day I was with him and then ih she I want show yoh mi son and when I saw how his son foot heal, completely heal, flesh growing back, everything, then it hit me that if this man can do this for his son, he can do it for other people who are suffering from bedsores as well.”


Zelaya explained how he has been able to treat patients who are often simply prescribed painkillers.


Jose Zelaya, Sr.

“Yoh have to have da love eena yoh heart fi mek yoh could deal with it because bedsore da nuh nothing nice. Yoh have to have a good stomach to because ih come with a smell. And yoh have to put all ah dehn thing aside if you really want help and get it heal. Soh weh I do I draw all ah dende and the same way how I deal with my son when he come home with it da the same way I use the same procedure fi the rest ah the patients whe ask me fi help dehn.  I use thing weh we get right da Belize, Saline, peroxide, the neobacitracine cream, and the gauze and that’s it right deh. But hygienic-wise, ah mek sure ah gloves up, mask up.”

Naturally, the healing process takes a while.  With constant care, at least once a day, the infected area begins to heal. Now, having seen what the level of care has done for his son, Zelaya has gone public to offer his help to anyone who needs it.


Jose Zelaya, Sr.

“Bedsore nuh nice. I di tell yoh I see it with my son, I cry many – he nuh see me cry, =but I cry many nights when I see how he mi deh. Soh imagine next people di see fi dehn people with it and cyaa help dehn and nuh know weh fi do, I know how hurt ih hurt. Dehn could reach out to Mr Albert on Ladyville highlights and we wa see dehn. Or dehn could reach me mek I could goh to dehn and show dehn weh dehn need and show dehn how fi do it and dehn could do the same. 0:11:02

Albert Magdaleno gets the supplies that Zelaya needs to treat his patients from donors abroad.”


Albert Magdaleno

“I have several contacts in the U.S., in various parts of the States – New York, L.A., Atlanta, Miami – these people, we ask for the supplies and they send it, all Belizeans. We get them by the box. So we get box of cream, box of whatever he needs, box of peroxide, all the stuff that he uses, even down to the scrubs. My friend has the latest in scrubs.”


Currently, he is helping five other people to heal from bedsores. Aspinal Welch, a shooting victim, is confined to a wheelchair and is healed from three bedsores, through Zelaya’s help. Before that, he says he couldn’t move. Today, we met him returning from his daily exercise up the street from where he lives.


Aspinal Welch

Aspinal Welch, Patient

“Since I get help with Mr Zelaya fi tell yoh the truth, my thing deh di heal good cause this man know weh ih di do. This man, – I feel like he mussi got soh much years experience at this cause this man know exactly weh he di do cause my bedsore dehn come from this right now to bout this (gesturing). The one over this side da like this. Ih really small soh  I could tell yoh this man know weh ih di do.”


Sadie King is thankful for the help that Jose Zelaya is providing to her. Her son, Felix Godoy spoke about Zelaya’s assistance.


Felix Godoy, Mother of Patient

Felix Godoy

“She have the bedsore now for, I think about two of three weeks now and it’s getting healed. Mr. Zelaya dress it and everything. It started to heal. She could sit up and talk now.”


Marion Ali   

“She can?”


Felix Godoy

“Yes, and she could eat; she could do everything now. She nuh have to use no pad under her.”


For Zelaya, who has turned around his life, from causing injury to healing injury, the positive work he does now has the ultimate healer at the core.


Jose Zelaya, Sr.

“The healing start with God, you know, cause if he nuh give we fi he spiritual healing, we nuh heal. Soh I try mek we got wa lee prayer every time we done, yoh know.”


Marion Ali reporting for News Five.




Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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