City Of Angels
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It is too much to suggest that the efforts of these UCLA students
can make everything better for the residents of Hollywood's streets, and at
times the sadness they witness is overwhelming.
"Sometimes you feel very helpless,” Lozares says. "There are
people who need so much, and they want for us to be able to treat them right
then and there to make things better, and there's nothing we are able to do.”
Then there are the successes, proof that sometimes a simple act of caring is
enough to help people up, even to save their life.
Tiny believes that caring saved his.
"I know for sure if it hadn't been for Walt I’d be dead right now,”
he says. "By almighty God, I firmly believe that. Walt stood by me the
Walt is Walter Coppenrath III, a fourth-year UCLA medical student who has been
involved with the clinic since the beginning. He first met Tiny one night when
the homeless man came to the corner to get a meal from the food coalition van
and stopped by the clinic.
Tiny — the name is a misnomer; at an inch over 7 feet tall and weighing
480 pounds, Tiny is as close to a giant as anyone is ever likely to see —
had been using speed for about 25 years and was having serious medical problems.
A diabetic, his left leg had ghastly ulcerating sores that wouldn’t heal.
"It was stinking, and I asked them if they had any gauze so I could wrap
it up. Well, Walter looked at me and he says, ‘If I got you in a hospital,
would you go?’ ”
Tiny had been in and out of hospitals numerous times, but he agreed to go,
and Coppenrath took him, sitting with him in the emergency room for hours until
he was seen and admitted. After several days, Tiny was sent to a convalescent
hospital, but he got into a row with one of the nurses and took off —
"I’m big and bullheaded, and I got pissed off and cussed her out,”
he says — returning to the streets and shooting drugs. Coppenrath found
him a couple of weeks later sprawled in a park, unable to get up on his own.
The wound on his leg, fully a foot-and-a-half long, was horrible, and the smell,
Coppenrath recalls, "was beyond decay. It was death.” Again, the
young man helped to get Tiny admitted to a hospital, but again Tiny split.