By Ami Garza
Upon first glance, psychology senior Monica Guerrero, looks like any other ordinary student at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. She takes classes, studies and finishes her homework.
Unfortunately, glances are merely that: a surface view. Behind the petite person is a fierce lioness overcoming hardships. For Guerrero, life at home is tough.
Apart from attending school and work, Monica is a full-time mother to her three daughters Rebeccah, 4, Farrah, 5, and Savannah, 6 and married to a wounded veteran. Her middle child, Farrah, is a medical mystery to doctors who are unable to diagnose her condition.
According to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Farrah’s medical problems include partial blindness, autistic disorder, difficulty swallowing, drooping eyelid, hearing loss, difficulty walking and delayed milestones.
Doctors at Walter Reed haven’t been able to identify the main cause of her symptoms.
“We’re back to square one,” said Guerrero.
Guerrero works part-time at H-E-B in the bakery section decorating cakes, which she finds relaxing. H-E-B has been supportive of Monica’s hardships at home. This past Christmas, H-E-B gave her Spurs tickets, and an autographed Danny Green jersey.
She glances through her phone to eagerly show a photograph of five-year old Farrah. She wears an oversized, black Spurs Jersey, more of a dress than a sweatshirt.
Farrah loves Danny Green so much she refused to have a birthday cake. Instead, she had a Danny Green themed birthday party.
Farrah calls Green her best friend. One day, she would love to have pancakes with him.
Farrah’s a fragile child, at least physically. Her body and muscles are weak and she often falls to the ground trying to keep up with the other children.
Loud sounds make her uncomfortable, and she’s sensitive to light. Farrah shows symptoms of a child that has autism.
Her eyelid droops because it loses the connection with her brain. She had eye surgery to lift her eyelid.
Out of her backpack, Guerrero pulls out what seems like a mountain of paperwork containing Farrah’s medical history.
Despite Guerrero’s fatigue, she speaks with an air of confidence. No matter how bad or uncertain information she receives from doctors, she seems to pull through everyday. She’s a fighter. There’s a determination in her eyes that betrays the weariness she carries on her shoulders.
Guerrero’s husband served in the U.S Marines in Afghanistan. In his last deployment he was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED). As a result of the explosion he was left with some brain damage that causes memory loss.
“To be able to take care of my husband’s medical situation, his needs and raising a family and attending school and work is very crazy and a hectic lifestyle,” she said. “I feel really good to be able to get support from professors and survive.”
The military covered their medical bills until Oct. 2013. Since then Guerrero and her husband co-pay their medical bills under their own insurance.
Leticia Saucedo, Guerrero’s mother, showed pride when talking about her daughter.
“My husband and I are so proud of her,” Saucedo said. “We pinch ourselves because we never thought she would complete school because she stopped going to school.“
Guerrero is overjoyed that she will walk the stage with honors this spring after earning her degree in psychology. She plans to attend graduate school in the summer and hopes to work with kids with autism in the future.
A&M-San Antonio offers free student counseling and wellness services for students who are undergoing personal difficulties. Director of Counseling and Wellness, Rachel Lutz. oversees the program.
“We offer individual counseling, crisis walk-ins, and services for any emotional balances,” Lutz said.” We offer this for every student currently enrolled. Our staff is invested in understanding the unique struggles that students may have with family, relationships and their academic schedules.”
Not only is there help on campus, some faculty members such as psychology professor Sam Rock volunteer their time to help out their students.
“I try to be flexible with students who are having any problems,” Rock said. “I provide study tips that, if used, it should help them improve their grades.”
Friends, classmates and professors became a support group for Guerrero.
“Texas A&M became more of a family. Professors and fellow students ask me ‘How’s your daughter doing?’ Or ‘how did her appointment go?” So it became a support group as well,” Guerrero said. “That’s why I say to other students or moms, if you’re struggling with school work, let a professor know. They actually do care, you know.”