After battling Texas State student lunch line-jumpers and rescuing those without swipes from hunger, Susie Mullen, known by some as the Viking Goddess of Jones Dining Hall, has now found her own heroes in the 139 people who have contributed funds toward her cataract surgery.
Cataracts have affected Mullen’s right eye for years, but for the last few months, the vision in her left eye has waned significantly. It has become more difficult for her to walk to work and operate the cash register at Jones Dining Hall where she has worked for eight years.
“For the last few months, I kind of worried that I’d wake up one morning and not be able to see at all,” said Mullen, Texas State alumna.
According to the National Eye Institute, a cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision. Most cataracts are related to aging. Common symptoms include cloudy or blurry vision and double vision, or multiple images in one eye.
Last month, Jeska Savage, Texas State alumna, and her husband created the GoFundMe campaign, “Help Susie See,” to try to provide the necessary funds for the uninsured Mullen’s cataracts surgery.
“If she couldn’t get the surgery, she wouldn’t be able to keep her job, which means she wouldn’t be able to support herself,” Savage said.
Mullen, who met Savage in 1990, sought funding on her own to no avail. She did not know the campaign had been created until a friend told her a week later because she does not have a computer or cell phone.
In less than two weeks, the fundraiser met its initial $2,500 goal, which was later raised to $5,500 to cover the cost of the outpatient surgeries on both eyes. Surgery on Mullens’ right eye is scheduled for Feb. 20, with no date set for the left eye.
“It’s people she’s known for years and people she’s never met,” Savage said. “We’ve got an incredible community here. (It’s) Susie’s validation for being such a wonderful person all these years. You know she’s been around a while.”
San Marcos resident Damien Bell said he does not know Mullen personally, but decided to donate $50 after reading about her GoFundMe campaign on a flier at Wake the Dead Coffee House. Mullen will have art on display at the coffee shop beginning Jan. 26 until the end of this month.
“I donated because I felt tragedy in her being an artist who was losing her vision,” said Bell, Texas State alumnus, in an email. “It seemed especially cruel that she would lose her sight to something entirely treatable. It appears our healthcare system would have let her down. So, it’s inspiring to see that our community would not.”
With long, braided pigtails and horned helmet in tow, Mullen has seen the university change names (she graduated with an English degree from Southwest Texas State University in 1988) and grow in student population, one of the students being her own child. However, Mullen said one thing remains the same: her faith and gratitude toward the San Marcos community.
The community has known her as a pre-school teacher at Bonham Elementary, owner of a vegetarian restaurant and philanthropist who pledges to end hunger in Hays County through the sale of her Valentine’s Day cards in The Quad.
This Valentine’s Day, however, Mullen said friends have helped her create the cards and will help her sell them. Friends have volunteered because the cataracts have made it difficult to do simple tasks like checking out a library book or shopping for groceries.
“Valentine’s Day has taken on a whole new meaning to me these last few years,” she said. “It’s given me an opportunity to show my love to the community.”
Through unity in the community and a little help from Dr. Joshua Ki Hu, Central Texas Eye Center ophthalmologist, she expects to regain her full vision soon.