Susana: From 12 Medications to Healthy & Strong

In 2005, Susana was 24 years old and busy balancing life as a single mom with a retail job and a professional softball career—she played catcher and pitcher for a regional team in El Salvador. Life was moving along well enough, but she constantly worried about her daughter’s future. That’s when her best friend—who moved with her family to the US when she and Susana were 12 years old—offered to sponsor Susana’s immigration.

Susana and her daughter were settling in as the first snow of the season fell on Arlington. She quickly found work caring for children and cleaning homes, but then out of nowhere, just three months after arriving, Susana became very sick. She ended up in the Emergency Department at Virginia Hospital Center (VHC) where she learned she had lupus and associated kidney failure.

Dr. Thomas Rakowski, a nephrologist who practices at VHC, cared for Susana while she was in the hospital. A longtime Arlington Free Clinic volunteer, Dr. Rakowski continued seeing her when she was discharged into our care.

Susana has had medical ups and downs over the years. When she was first diagnosed, she was prescribed 12 different types of medication and was too weak to work. Her friend helped her buy food and pay rent. Two years later, she developed a pulmonary embolism, a life-threatening complication of lupus.

Today, Susana is only on one medication! She comes to AFC every month so we can monitor and manage her pulmonary embolism, and sees Dr. Rakowski annually so he can keep an eye on her lupus. Susana is feeling strong and healthy—so much so that in addition to her fulltime construction job, she picked up part-time work washing dishes at a restaurant in Arlington to help her daughter pay for classes at Northern Virginia Community College.

Read our entire 2019 Annual Report here.

Moving with Patients Toward Better Health
An Epic Transition to a New Electronic Health Record System
AFC Highlights, July 1, 2018 – June 30, 2019
Volunteer Profile: María Teresa
Why We Support Arlington Free Clinic: Dana & Ray Koch
Practice Spotlight: Novant Health Imaging
Board Chair’s Letter