Waking up at 5 in the morning, prepare the lunch that the provider of the house will take to work. Get ready for college, taking classes all day. Get home in the afternoon, start cooking and cleaning the house. Do homework, study or go to church depending on the day. Sounds like a normal day in the life of a woman with kids but that’s not the case.
Estefani Marrero, 22, has taken care of her 3 brothers: Lucas, 23, Eli, 20 and Joel, 18, since she was 11 years old. ”My parents got divorced when I was 9 years old, after a 2 year custody battle, we moved with my dad” said Estefani. Since then she has been like a mother for her 3 brothers and the housekeeper while her dad Lucas Marrero is at work. “My responsibilities go from helping my brothers with their homework to cooking, sweeping the floors, doing the dishes, you name it.” So that day described earlier has been a normal day of Estefani since she was 11.
Even when she has all these responsibilities, that has not stopped her from her academic ones. “It has been tough”, said Estefani in an overwhelmed tone. “I start doing the assignments or study as early as I can. I can’t leave anything for the last minute.” Estefani is a nursery student at the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico (UIPR) and then will apply for a major in Neurology. Estefani, looking at a picture of her dad, explained, “When my dad had a stroke a few years ago he needed a neurologist”, then she added that her mom just recently had two strokes and a heart attack. “I don’t know for sure if she will need a neurologist but I just want to take care of them”.
It’s ironic that she wants to take care of her parents more than taking care of herself, considering all the health problems she has acquired over the years. “Well I had problems with my spleen, as it used to eliminate all the red blood cells that my body produced”. In order to fix this problem, Estefani had to have her spleen removed. A few years later it was found that this has made her bones weaker resulting in her having a variation of arthritis. Recently she was diagnosed with arrhythmia which according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute website is a problem with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat. During an arrhythmia, the heart can beat too fast, too slow, or with an irregular rhythm.
Her best friend Pierrette Rodriguez, 21, recalls the day Estefani was diagnosed with arrhythmia. “She was having a really bad time,” pointing out the irony that they were studying the consequences of diseases on the circulatory system at that time. “Normally she is my psychologist but now it was my time”, then she said to Estefani: “You have gone against all odds in life to just give up now”. Even though Pierrette couldn’t say or promise that everything will be ok she could say the next best thing: “I’ll be there with you”. Then she added “because I know that she would be there for me”.
With all of these obstacles in live she still founds a way to keep going. Although she is still human so there always that time that life overwhelms her. “I’ve felt like I had enough thousands of times”. With sadness on her eyes she explained “when my dad had a stroke 3 years ago and just recently when my mom entered a coma”. Thankfully her mom already awakened from the coma, although it still in a really delicate state. “Somehow I had found a way to carry on, all thanks to God that has always been there for me”.
Estefani has been frequently active on the Cristian church “Avivamiento Betel” in Villalba where she is the president of the youth movement. Her motivation for this is simply help the youth. “It’s satisfying to know that I’m helping in some way, keeping them out of drugs and the streets.” She is also a regular singer of the same church. “I like to sing, I mostly sing religious songs, and just recently I started composing songs”.
In this very church she met her boyfriend Daniel Hernandez. They have been in a relationship for over 3 months but he was trying for over a year before. “She is an exceptional woman”, said Daniel. She’s brave, she is always willing to help others, intelligent, super friendly and she is always there when you need her”. He looked away, he sighed and said: “She has impacted my life and my happiness in a way that words can’t describe”. Then he added “if you try to enumerate all her qualities we will never end”.
With a tough life like this one, it’s not surprising that she has some problems with government agencies, in this case the Department of Family. “My mom didn’t want to lose custody of my brothers and me” said Estefani, a little uncomfortable added “so she called and accused my dad, saying that we lived in subhuman conditions”. They didn’t have to take any actions, “they interviewed my brothers and me and they knew it was a lie”.
Even though she has had a really tough life she still up and enjoying life. “I know my life has been tough” she said, “but I can’t compare my life with anyone else because I don’t know what other people have been through”. With an inspired tone added, “I just have to keep living, I’m happy now and hopefully I’ll be happy in the future”.