After the Sonoma Valley Community Health Center (SVCHC) provided care and support in her time of need, Therese Sueiro decided she wanted to give back to the Health Center and her community. In February 2014, she was selected and approved to serve on the Board of Directors for the Sonoma Valley Community Health Center as one of its consumer representatives for a three-year term.
The SVCHC operates under the direction of a consumer majority Board of Directors with over 51 percent of its members being current consumers or patients. This practice ensures a truly community-centered leadership structure. Sueiro will serve as one of the seven consumers on the 13-member Board.
Living in Cozumel, a tropical island in Mexico, had its beauty but devastation caused by Hurricane Wilma made it too difficult to stay. After living in Mexico for a total of 13 years and after the birth of her two children, she decided to move her family to Sonoma Valley to establish roots and settle down.
Shortly after her arrival in Sonoma with no job and no insurance, Sueiro became ill after having ingested bacteria found on fresh arugula. She quickly found that the shortage of available physicians and resources in the Sonoma Valley area was critical. Her declining health became nearly fatal as she began experiencing loss of strength and sensation in her body. Not knowing where to turn, she reached out to the personnel at her child’s school who directed her to the Sonoma Valley Community Health Center.
“I had been to several doctors and to the Emergency Room and no one was able to help me or diagnose my symptoms,” said Sueiro. “Dr. Ahern at the Health Center was able to diagnose my symptoms and give me the direction and assistance that helped me navigate a debilitating disorder. She called me several times at home just to check on me and support me during the entire ordeal.”
Through the efforts and guidance of the Health Center, Sueiro was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a potentially life threatening disorder that affects the nervous system causing paralysis and nerve pain which can lead to cardiac arrest or pulmonary failure. The paralysis that she experienced and continued to suffer for months after her diagnosis and treatment could have been permanent had Dr. Ahern not intervened.
After 10 days of treatment, Sueiro left the hospital in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down and having accumulated steep, seemingly insurmountable medical bills. The SVCHC helped navigate the system in order to provide application assistance for the uninsured. Weeks of occupational and physical therapy followed and the Health Center continued to support her emotionally and physically.
Now, Sueiro wants to give back to the organization that helped her. As a Board member, she looks forward to serving the Health Center as a personal voice for patients, offering her input and actions on their behalf.
“We are delighted to have Therese Sueiro join our group of dedicated and passionate volunteer Board members,” said Cheryl Johnson, SVCHC chief executive officer. “Ms. Sueiro will bring the community voice to the decision-making table as we focus on public health issues and the delivery of care that will make for a healthier Sonoma Valley.”
A graduate of University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Sueiro earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration/Fashion Merchandising with a minor in Spanish Language and Literature. Since that time, she has served in numerous sales and marketing roles for companies such as Donna Karan, Jordan Marsh Company and Jill Platner, Inc. in New York.
While in Mexico, she opened her own business, the Puro Mar Bikini Shop and Surf Company. She also worked with vacation rentals in Puerto Escondido, prior to her return to Sonoma Valley.
Sueiro is currently serving as the Merchandise Manager for Vineburg Wine Company, Gundlach Bundschu Winery and Bartholomew Park Winery, where she is responsible for developing and managing all non-wine products for retail and promotional uses. She also develops and oversees aesthetics in retail and hospitality locations.
When she is not working at the wineries or serving her community on the SVCHC Board, she is the mother of two boys, Antonio and Luis, a third and sixth grader respectively.
“The Sonoma Valley Community Health Center is a place for all residents of Sonoma Valley, regardless of personal or financial situations, to receive quality healthcare from staff that truly care about the health and well-being of all patients,” stated Sueiro. “The new and expanded facility is something to be excited about and I look forward to assisting the Center in growing services and providing additional support to the community.”
Sueiro began her service on the Board with her first meeting on Wednesday, March 12. The SVCHC invites all members of the community to join Therese Sueiro and other Board members, as well as staff and volunteers in showing support for the Health Center by attending or sharing information about upcoming events.