Monday, Apr 23, 2018
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Bedford buoys teacher, ill child, 4

Educator takes unpaid leave to care for son


Maryellen Flowers, her son, Jude, 4, and Brian Flowers, Jude’s father, look through a photo album. Ms. Flowers said she and her family have been overwhelmed with support from the Bedford community.

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TEMPERANCE — Bedford Public Schools teacher Maryellen Flowers has been caring for her ill son this year instead of working in the classroom, and she says she is overwhelmed by the support the school district and community have given her.

Her son, Jude, was diagnosed with leukemia last summer and underwent a month-long course of intensive chemotherapy that put him in remission. Today, the 4-year-old is a bundle of energy, his bald head the only giveaway that he has been battling a serious illness. At 36 pounds, he is only a little underweight.

To date, he has taken 83 doses of oral chemotherapy, 19 doses through a port in his chest, and eight spinal injections, and he is to start a another phase of therapy this week at ProMedica Toledo Children’s Hospital. Next month, he is set to start maintenance chemotherapy, involving a daily pill and a week of steroid doses each month. This is to run into 2015, when Jude will be 7. Then, if all goes as expected, he will be pronounced a leukemia survivor.

Ms. Flowers is on an unpaid leave from her job at the junior high to tend to the boy. She and Jude have moved in with her mother to hold down costs while she is without a salary.

As befits a teacher, she is well organized, with a thick notebook filled with logs of her son’s therapy sessions; she speaks knowledgeably about Jude’s disease — acute lymphatic leukemia, which is very treatable — and how much therapies have advanced in two decades.

She is unstinting in her expressions of appreciation to the Bedford community. “Everyone has been so wonderful. I can’t say enough,” she said.

Several high school girls held a silent auction fund-raiser Feb. 8 at the boys varsity basketball home game against Monroe High School. They raised $5,000 selling items donated by Bedford businesses and other contributions. One girl, senior Ellen Hays, said the goal was $1,500.

“We really tried to get the community involved,” Miss Hays said. “We put it out on Twitter and Facebook. We sold T-shirts and bracelets. We didn’t know how involved everyone was going to get. It was amazing.”

Ms. Flowers said she would use the money for miscellaneous medical bills not fully covered by insurance, such as physical therapy, and they already total more than $13,000. She said she would never forget the generosity at Christmas, when gifts were dropped off at her house.

“They were unwrapped and I wrapped them, and they were very nice gifts,” she recalled. “It’s just been amazing. I can’t believe how wonderful people are. I get all these text messages and cards, and they keep me going.”

She and Jude’s father, Brian Flowers, are divorced. Mr. Flowers is involved in the boy’s treatment and recovery, and he said he has attended 90 percent of the boy’s doctors’ appointments and therapy sessions.

Ms. Flowers, for her part, said she looks forward to returning to her teaching job next year.

“I miss my students,” she said.

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