Max Martinez. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Max Martinez. Photo by Robert Eliason.

A San Juan Bautista figure known for his appearances over the years as Santa Claus, Max Martinez might be temporarily laid up at Mission Skilled Nursing in San Jose, but he wants the residents to know that he is still paying attention to who has been naughty and who has been nice.

Martinez, 82, is recuperating from a severe stroke he suffered on Aug. 1 that weakened his left side and has left him bedridden. He is receiving physical therapy at the facility and will remain there for the next few weeks.

Max Martinez celebrating San Juan Bautista's 150 years in 2019. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Max Martinez celebrating San Juan Bautista’s 150 years in 2019. Photo by Robert Eliason.

Martinez was at his San Juan home getting ready for a doctor’s appointment when his son, Francisco, noticed signs that his father was possibly having a stroke. Luckily, he had some CPR training and knew the F.A.S.T. Warning Signs:

  • F – Face Drooping
  • A – Arm Weakness
  • S – Speech Difficulty
  • T – Time to call 911

“I am recovering a little bit at a time,” Martinez said. “But it is slow. I want to go to therapy every day if it is possible. I really look forward to it.” 

“I noticed his speech was off,” Francisco said, “and I noticed his left arm was hanging a little bit. I called for an ambulance, and thank God, the firefighters were there within seconds.”

Max was taken first to the emergency room at Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital. He was almost immediately transferred to Kaiser Hospital in Santa Clara, which specializes in the early stages of stroke treatment and after less than a week, he had stabilized enough to be transferred to Mission Skilled Nursing.

Daily visits from his family are helping to keep his mind active, particularly when he gets to see his latest grandchild, one-year-old Adam. All in all, Max has been able to stay in good spirits.

“When I have visitors,” Max said, “it really picks me up and encourages me a lot. But I miss San Juan. I miss my regular fruit cups at G&G Cafe and the fresh food at Lolla.

Francisco said that he does not know how long Max will be in the facility, perhaps another two or three months, depending on how he progresses. 

“He is getting great care here,” Francisco said. “But we want to get him out of there as soon as possible. Even though he is vaccinated, he is around people coming and going through here who may be immunocompromised.”

That care, however, is going to be expensive. While Max gets health coverage through Medicare, his benefits are running out and will not fully cover his hospital stay.

“Insurance only covers the first 21 or 22 days,” he said. “After that, you have to pay a $200 copay for doctors and $100 per day to the facility. That can get expensive, and we’re already starting to pay out-of-pocket.”

To help with the expenses, Francisco has started a GoFundMe campaign with the goal of raising $20,000 for Max’s care. The campaign has raised over $2,000 so far.

“My dad is generally a very happy person,” he said, “but this is testing his will and the will of everyone around him. But he is also very big in the community, and it is good to see people are stepping up to help him.”

Because he will be unable to walk for the foreseeable future, Max has had to give up his second-floor apartment in San Juan. His son, Max Martinez III, has moved to the area from Colorado to help care for his father and has been looking for a new apartment in town.

“Max is going to stay with him,” Francisco said. “I live in Hollister, so when he needs to work, I will be able to help out. That is the plan for now, and we will see how it goes.”

Max Martinez. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Max Martinez. Photo by Robert Eliason.

Once he is back and in better health, Max aims to once more contribute to the town, either in his role as Santa Claus or just hanging out on a bench and being its goodwill ambassador as he has over the years. 

“Max is a great person,” said Kristina Hastings, owner of Bliss Blendz. “One thing I know about him is that he always tries to please people. No matter what anyone needs, he is always there to lend a hand. We miss him and need him back.”

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