By David Sedeño
The Texas Catholic
GARLAND—For the past several months, teacher Pamela Aguilar has started her school days something like this.
“Good morning, class,” she says to the students gathered in her third-grade classroom on the second floor of Good Shepherd Catholic School.
And to a video screen and speaker set atop a robot outfitted with a red-and-black checkered jumper, she says, “Good morning, Susy!”
Susy Amaro is several miles away, in a room inside her home, unable to physically be in the classroom. For years, Susy had to endure blood transfusions to battle an immune deficiency disorder. Finally last fall, doctors found a perfect match for a bone marrow transplant that would hopefully end future blood transfusions.
Her brother Alejandro, a student at Bishop Lynch High School, was the perfect match and the procedure was done in November.
Principal Gail Richardson-Bassett said teachers and administrators were looking for a way for Susie, a student at Good Shepherd since pre-school, to minimize lost academic lessons after the transplant because she needed to stay away from others and remain germ-free for several months.
The robot was loaned to Susy free of charge through a program at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas.
“Susy is an important part of our community and this opportunity allows Susy to continue her classwork and her education at our school and to ensure she will not miss any of the important learning that is necessary for her,” Richardson-Bassett said. “And we say our prayers every day that Susy will recover and be able to join us soon.”
Inside the classroom, Susy participates in the daily lessons. She listens, asks and answers questions when prompted and talks to her fellow students—when allowed. Via the remote control she is able to move around the classroom, with her friends moving desks and chairs when necessary to clear a path for her.
When she has to move to another part of the second-floor, her friend Stella Nguyen walks in front of the robot like a pacer vehicle, ensuring an obstacle-and-student-free hallway.
Wherever she goes she is greeted with, “Hi, Susy!” and she returns the greeting.
Whenever the robot has to be moved to the first floor, it’s usually Aguilar who picks it up and takes it down the stairs. The school does not have an elevator.
“She’s here and it’s like she really is here,” Aguilar said. “We get to see her every day unless she has an appointment. But when she is here, it’s like she is here in person.”
At home, Susy has her textbooks and spirals to follow and work through the lessons with her class. Each week, her mother, Maria Amaro, picks up her assignments and tests and returns the homework and exams when completed.
“We’re able to make sure she gets all the work done and is still getting a good, quality education,” Aguilar said.
Susy’s mother said she is grateful for many things and the accommodating staff at Good Shepherd Catholic School for the past few months of coordinating the lesson plans. It will be several weeks before Susy is cleared to return to her classroom.
“The robot has allowed Susy to be able to interact in class and to be able to do the same thing that her classmates are doing,” Amaro said. “And it was very special for our family that Alejandro was able to be the donor for Susy and Susy, God willing, will be able to have a better quality of life.”
Susy said she misses her friends, the special events and activities, even the camaraderie of the loud lunchroom.
“I miss them a lot and I wish I was in school right now.”