Her path to change would soon beckon.
Two daughters were already grown and gone. The South Bend native was living in Arizona, having followed her then-husband there, but she never really liked it.
She was just divorced for the third time, turning 50 and “stuck at a crossroads in my life.”
So she sat down and set five goals for herself.
“The first was a big one. I vowed to never get married again,” she says.
She had already earned an undergraduate degree in nursing from Arizona State. She wanted to earn a postgraduate degree in physical rehabilitation and then move to California, to live closer to a daughter there.
She enrolled in the Warm Springs (Ga.) Rehabilitation Program and earned her physical rehab certificate. Not long afterward, she landed a job as a staff nurse at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Downey, Calif.
“But although my work with the patients was great, the language barrier was a problem for me,” she says. “I found it frustrating not to be able to talk with my patients and their families. I felt a real need to learn Spanish.”
So she applied to the Peace Corps. After a year of waiting, she received a letter telling her she had been accepted. But for some reason the letter had been delayed; by the time Betty opened it, she had only five days to decide whether she wanted to go to Ecuador.
She went to the library to read up on the country - and she decided to take the chance.
“I guess the five days’ pressure was what pushed me over the edge, and I had not really worked on a job I really loved,” she says now.
Betty started packing, storing some of her furniture. She gave the rest away.
She left with just a suitcase of clothes as she boarded the flight to Ecuador. She felt that she had nothing to lose.
The flight was uneventful, but soaring into Ecuador, she remembers feeling both peace and excitement.
“I remember saying to myself as we flew in and I was looking down on the city, ‘There is Quito, and I’m ready to start work at Hospital Eugenio Estejo.’”
But what Betty found after she landed would change her life forever, in more ways than she could ever imagine.
(first of six parts)