Susie was born in 1974, at Illinois Masonic Hospital in Chicago. She was premature and weighed just two and one-half pounds. As part of her treatment, she was placed in an incubator and, unfortunately, the high levels of oxygen damaged her eyes, resulting in blindness. This was not an uncommon experience in earlier decades, it became far less common by the 1970’s and is very rare today. Known as “A Miracle Baby”, she stayed in the hospital for 80 days! Susie’s parents and family provided a loving environment and supported her in every way. At the age of three (3), she learned to feel different textures and worked hard to read Braille (which she fully mastered by adolescence!). Later she attended a special school program at Skinner and Farnsworth Elementary Schools in Chicago.
For high school, she enrolled at Carl Schurz High School where she was an excellent student and graduated in 1993. She then enrolled at the Illinois Center for Rehabilitation and Education, where she was a very persistent, tenacious student and furthered her adaptive skills so she could be as independent as possible. She attended other training programs for persons who are blind and worked for some time packaging home-care products and doing clerical work.
Susie really wanted to help others and become a volunteer tutor, so she participated in several programs for persons who are blind and taught several subjects, including: Braille, arithmetic, spelling, basic typing on the and Word Perfect 5.1.
Susie is a woman of many talents and interests. She writes poetry and is a fan of music. She most enjoys attending concerts and is a loyal fan to many favorite performers, but her favorite is Joan Jett. She wrote a beautiful poem about Joan Jett and has been to many of her concerts. As she expressed herself, “I started going to Joan Jett’s concerts in May of 1998. I’ve been to eleven (11) of her concerts and this year was my 12th. Soon, I’ll be going to my 13th concert. I got a chance to give Joan Jett a hug and take pictures and to tell her I’ve been her fan since as was seven (7) and she is awesome!”
She was introduced to Friedman Place as a volunteer and became a model volunteer – she was extremely impressed by the high quality, committed staff and community members. Shortly after she began volunteering at Friedman Place, her volunteer position came to end, leaving her isolated at home. She valued her independence and did not want to burden family members for rides or entertainment. Additionally, she wanted to be sure she had a place to live as her parents aged, so she initiated the process to join the community at Friedman Place. She recalled her excitement when she finally became a resident, as she reflects: “I was so happy on that fateful day of June 27, 2011. I became an official resident at Friedman Place. I want to stay here for life!”