WEST RIDGE — Victor Noriega struggles with his short-term memory: He can't remember the names of his friends or everyday objects.
But he remembers Marcia Fishman — her face and the way she's helped him, if not her name.
Noriega, 61, has struggled with his memory since early July, when he was crossing the street and was hit by a car. The driver didn't stop for Victor, who lay bleeding in the street, and if it wasn't for passersby calling 911 Victor's family isn't sure he would have survived.
Noriega was rushed to the hospital, where surgeons operated on him to relieve pressure on his brain, Fishman said. He was unconscious for two weeks, his family said, and he remembers none of it.
When he awoke, his lips were still covered in small cuts. Half of his hair had been shaved during surgery and a line of staples ran across his skull. Videos show him struggling to hold a pen, almost completely unable to write.
Fishman, who lives in the building where Noriega worked as a maintenance man for 19 years before the July crash, had long counted him as a friend. Hearing about the crash that nearly took his life was heartbreaking, she said: He was so kind and had already suffered the loss of his twin brother, his best friend, just months earlier.
"You hate to see something so horrible happen to someone so nice," Fishman said.
Noriega, unable to return to work while he recovered, received pay for several months. But his insurance couldn't help him in the long-term, and Fishman and others at the building grew concerned about if Victor and his family would be able to pay their mortgage and bills.
They created a GoFundMe campaign, aiming to raise $5,000 to help Noriega's family stay on their feet until he could return to work. They put up signs and spoke with neighbors so more people would learn about the fundraiser.
Victor Noriega (in orange) poses for a photo with a group of people who have helped him raise money to cover his mortgage and bills after he was nearly killed in a hit-and-run crash in early July. [Courtesy Marcia Fishman]
The building's tenants have rallied around Noriega, raising $5,345 in one month. Last week, they organized a meetup, and more than 300 people in the building attended so they could see Noriega and ask him how he was doing.
Now Fishman and the other organizers hope to raise even more money to ensure Noriega and his family are taken care of until he can return to work. Fishman said she's concerned the $5,000 they've raised so far won't "go far" in taking care of the family's expenses if Noriega can't return to work for a while longer.
In the meantime, Noriega is going through physical therapy and does brain exercises to work on his memory. A pink scar shaped like an "C" stretches from his left ear to just inches above his eye.
It'll be several months before his family and friends learn what is his "new normal," Fishman said. They don't know if his memory will ever be the same as it was before the crash.
"Simple things he should know, he doesn't," said Roberto Noriega, Victor's brother. "He unrolled everything, and now he's rolling it back."
There are good signs, though: Noriega can walk and talk, joking with his family and friends. Fishman, sitting with Noriega and his family at his home, said Noriega still forgets her name but he knows they're friends.
But several minutes later, Noriega's face brightened and he said he'd remembered her name: "Marcia!"
Everyone smiled and laughed. "Right!" Fishman said.
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