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Author Topic: Dorina Rodriguez  (Read 3612 times)
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« on: November 25, 2007, 10:58:28 pm »

Dorina Rodriguez

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Dorina Rodriguez would love to go to work every morning.

When she worked as an executive assistant to the late Sam Johnson, then U.S. Court of Appeals judge for the Fifth Circuit during the 1990s, Rodriguez met Lady Bird Johnson and former President Jimmy Carter and even cooked spicy breakfast tacos for Texas Gov. Ann Richards.

Dorina Rodriguez worries that her son, Jake, is spending his childhood taking care of her instead of playing outside. She has lupus.

"I loved that job," she remembers with a sad smile.

Rodriguez was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease lupus at age 30, and the disease has lead to numerous health problems, including chronic kidney failure, pain in her neck and shoulders from the neurological disease fibromyalgia and neuropathy of the feet that prevents her from standing for long periods. In 2004, she was placed on permanent disability from the state. It pays about $2,000 a month.

"I don't want to suffer like this anymore," she admits, her voice cracking.

Now 46, Rodriguez wakes up each morning to intense pain and exhaustion. After taking a shower, she often must lie down for more than an hour to regain her strength just to move again.

On a recent afternoon, her 10-year-old son, Joaquin, whom she affectionately calls Jake, emerges from his room in the small apartment playfully wielding a plastic sword. He is his mother's protector, and his positive spirit keeps her going each day. His demeanor noticeably changes, however, when he talks about his mother's frequent hospital stays.

"I always get scared," he says quietly.

Jake spends a lot of time indoors with his mother, checking on her while she rests, and he does the household chores. He seldoms plays outside.

"He doesn't even know how to ride a bike," Rodriguez says.

Rodriguez was in a relationship with Jake's father for nearly 10 years. He still pays child support, but the two are not together now, she says. Among Jake's wishes, besides his mom getting better, is to have a male mentor.

Rodriguez's truck was repossessed earlier this year, so she has to borrow her sister's car to transport Jake to and from Holy Family Catholic School, where he attends on scholarship. Rodriguez has applied for food stamps from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, but has been denied twice. She is receiving counseling and emotional support for her and Jake through LifeWorks.

Despite her troubles, Rodriguez tries to remain positive. She collects crosses and angels as symbols of her faith, and she volunteers at her church when she is able to find transportation.

"I pray at night, never asking why this has happened to me," she says. "I said if this is what you (God) want me to do, if you want me to carry all these crosses, then that's what I'll do."

Rodriguez has applied for a home through Habitat for Humanity. More than anything, she wants a house with a large backyard where Jake can play.

I look normal, as I have an "Invisible Illness". You can not catch it, you can not see it. It's called Lupus.My body is attacking itself on the inside.
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