- This Week
Her family bought a van, left Sisters, Oregon, and started searching for somebody who would treat her. They traveled around the country three years, desperate for the life-saving treatment but unable to pay for it.
Just after her 17th birthday, Istina left her parents in New York and began hitchhiking back to Oregon. "That was my way of saying, I'm done looking for treatment. I'm going to do what makes my heart happy."
After a little over a year of traveling and exploring her interests, Istina made her way to San Francisco. She was sleeping in Buena Vista Park when she "heard some protesters walking by, going 'occupy San Francisco! Occupy San Francisco. I figured they were a bunch of radicals and that a street kid like me really wouldn't be welcome.'"
A few nights later, she did go check it out, looking for a safe place to sleep. "They explained to me what it's about, and why we're here, and my story directly sat inside of that."
She has been living and organizing with OccupySF ever since. She got involved with the medic team after spending a night in the hospital for kidney failure, then being treated for nine days, free, in the camp's medical tent. "They realized I had a lot of skill as a medic, and gave me a kit."
In the midst of recent media attacks on the OccupySF community, Istina is defensive: "Every community has its assholes. Every community has that pit that no one goes into because it's just yucky. For some people in San Francisco it's the Haight, for the the Haightians- you know, the Haight people- it's the financial district. For other people it'll be somewhere else. But I love the community here. "I've been hurt by a lot of people in my life," said Istina. "But I think I can make that right by holding to this pure-hearted motto of universal and unconditional love, for everyone. No exceptions." (Yael Chanoff)