— Ever since she was a little girl growing up in Hoopeston, Evelina Solis has understood the power of words.
“You can help or hurt people,” said Solis, 30, now a certified life coach, inspirational speaker and TV/radio personality in Texas. “If you use inspirational words, you can change people’s lives.”
But, with negative words, she said, “They cut and they hurt and they open up wounds.”
Solis chooses to use her words to enhance people’s lives, and those messages are being heard across the country.
Plus, her own remarkable story of surviving serious health problems is getting attention. Her story is one of 33 featured in the book, “Aim High: Extraordinary Stories of Hispanic and Latina Women” by Laura Contreras-Rowe. And this month, Ujima Magazine in Austin, Texas, came out with an article about her.
Now a resident of New Braunfels, Texas, Solis is busy as founder and president of Sol2Soul, an academic/life coaching and inspirational speaking resource. She travels around the country giving talks, and also has blog radio spots and a TV show in Austin, Texas.
“My personal mission is to inspire and motivate others to live happier and more fulfilled lives, to be the best they can,” she said in a telephone interview.
At the heart of her messages is that serious health problems almost killed her not too long ago, but she had faith in God, and survived.
“It makes you appreciate the gift of life,” she said. “Miracles are happening all the time — we’re so busy with our own schedules that we don’t see them.”
Just last year, she was diagnosed with lupus; before that, she suffered three seizures and flat-lined.
“I didn’t think I’d be able to go on the road again,” she said. “Miraculously, I started healing and I’ve been in remission since the beginning of 2010.”
Solis was born in Danville and grew up in Hoopeston, the daughter of Ramon and Maria G. Rodríguez-Solís.
In third or fourth grade, she won a competition and had to speak in front of the entire school. That’s when she realized how important words are, she said.
Solis attended Hoopeston Area High School her freshman year. The family moved to Ohio when her father, who worked at General Motors, was transferred. However, she returned for her senior year and was class president, graduating in 1998.
She received a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism and electronic media and Spanish from Ohio Northern University. She has media experience, having worked as a news and production assistant for WICD 15 in Champaign.
In 2001, she received a fellowship from the International Radio and Television Society Foundation in New York City — an experience that opened doors for her.
“I wanted to be a Latina Oprah,” she said, adding that she wanted to celebrate the unsung heroes — something she does on her radio and TV shows.
In 2006, Solis was a healthy 26-year-old living in Miami, Fla., and training for a marathon. One day, she woke up with a bruise on her left calf, which went from the size of a dime to the size of a softball within a couple of weeks. She had trouble catching her breath.
Eventually, she was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism, when an artery in a lung becomes blocked by a blood clot — this one traveled from her calf into her lungs.
Solis had permanent damage to her lung from lack of blood flow and oxygen, which eventually led to a painful case of pneumonia. She left the hospital in a wheelchair hooked up to an oxygen tank and was injected with blood thinner twice a day by an at-home health-care nurse.
Once she was on her feet again, she moved to Austin to be closer to family and doctors, and went through rehab.
In May 2008, she went for an annual checkup and it was discovered that her platelet count (which determines the rate at which your blood clots) and white blood cell count (which determines the presence of infection) were low. She underwent 16 blood infusions to increase the platelets in her blood.
In July 2009, Solis was having pains in her joints, low-grade fevers, and was losing strength in her hands. She was presenting to 250 teachers from Spain at a university in Austin. At the beginning of her speech, she had a seizure, and was rushed to the emergency room.
She suffered three seizures in a week and flat-lined before being diagnosed properly. Solis was in the hospital for 25 days, and in intensive care for a couple of weeks.
She had many complications from what doctors found out to be Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) cerebritis. That means there was inflammation of the brain or the nervous system.
SLE is an inflammatory, chronic disease of the tissues that connect body parts.
Due to the trauma, she became like a 2-year old, and lost much of her memory and speech.
Immediate treatment included steroids in high doses along with immunosuppressive drugs. She completed four months of physical, occupational and speech therapy, and had chemotherapy once a month for six months to force lupus into remission.
Faith in God
During those difficult times, Solis said she learned a valuable lesson. Over the last 10 years, God had been revealing his plan for her, but she was not still enough to listen, she said.
Solis then decided to leave her job at the University of Texas at Austin as the Leadership and Ethics Institute adviser to go on the road full-time to speak to groups and bring inspiration, hope and love.
“I realized God had given me another opportunity at living a purposeful life,” she said in the Ujimi magazine article.
Solis also is writing a book, which she hopes to release next spring. It’s an inspirational book to encourage people in their struggles, she said.
A classmate who remembers Solis well is Samantha Simpson, promotions director at WHPO Radio in Hoopeston.
She recalled that Solis was a leader even as a child. “We all knew she was destined to do something great,” Simpson said. “It doesn’t surprise me she’s been all over the country.”
Simpson aired an hour-long interview with Solis when the “Aim High” book came out last year. “She is an extraordinary Latina woman; I’m glad she was chosen,” she said.
“Personally, I’m inspired by what she’s done — her faith and strength and what she’s been through.”
She added, “She’s touched so many lives. Everyone she comes in contact with, she has that positive energy.”
Solis returned home for her 10-year class reunion in 2008, and hopes to return, possibly next year, to speak to students.
Solis said she comes from humble beginnings — her parents were migrant workers — and she never wants to forget where she comes from.
She also said she appreciates all the teachers and coaches who encouraged her. That changed her life, she said.
On the Web
Read more about Evelina Solis on her Web site, http://www.MySol2Soul.com
Other sites are: www.blogtalkradio.com/Sol2Soul and www.blogtalkradio.com/LatinosUnidos