California Educator

September 2016

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 19 of 57

Meet Ardelia Aldridge Educator shares inspiring story of battling chronic illness By SHERRY POSNICK- GOODWIN A rdelia Aldridge looks perfectly healthy. But there are times when she strug- gles to come to work, is too ill to work, or is even hospitalized. Aldridge, like many educators, is battling chronic illness. Managing her symptoms is a constant challenge. But it's worth it to her. "I love what I do," says Aldridge, who teaches English and English language devel- opment at Frank J. Zamboni Middle School in Paramount. "I love young people, and I love seeing their world view develop. Teach- ing is something I feel called upon to do." She inherited a love of teaching from her parents, who are both educators. She also inherited sickle cell anemia, which makes her one of an estimated 70,000 people in the U.S. living with the disorder. e condition is the most common form of sickle cell disease, a hereditary disorder in which red blood cells become hard and crescent-shaped, causing various medical problems including lung tissue damage, painful episodes and stroke. e blockage of blood flow can damage organs including the spleen, liver and kidneys. She has been able to manage her disease by eating right, getting enough rest, and keeping her stress level down. She avoids contact with others who are sick, and asks students with colds to stay in the back of the room. She is well aware that a case of the sniffles for some could lead to hospitalization for her. Al d r i d ge , 3 9 , re c a l l s th a t ye a r s a g o , t h o s e w i t h s i c k l e c e l l d i s e a s e r a r e l y reached adulthood. "ere are more and more of us surviving into our 40s and 50s," she says. "I'm fortu- nate that I can manage my illness and be a productive member of society and hold down a full-time job. Many with this illness aren't functioning as well and have more episodes and complications." September is National Sickle Cell Aware- ness Month, and Aldridge hopes that by sharing her story, she can educate others about th e di sease. S h e w oul d al so li ke to increase public awareness that many educators are battling a variety of chronic illnesses, and they deserve empathy and compassion. She is hoping in the future to organize a support group of such educators. " W h e t h e r t h e i l l n e s s i s p hy s i c a l o r mental, it's an obstacle teachers face on a constant basis as we work hard to do our best for students," says Aldridge, a member of the Teachers Association of Paramount who serves on CTA's State Council. "I am living with this disease, but I do not want to let it define me. I am struggling, but I am also a role model." See facts about sickle cell disease on page 10. In Ardelia's words: Many people don't understand… that you really have an illness if there's not something outward they can see. So sometimes it's awfully hard for people to understand that you are ill. My illness has made me… more compassionate when children in my classroom have physical or mental challenges such as ADD or depression. I had a student with sickle cell, and I made sure she was staying hydrated, resting and n ot jaundiced. My union has… supported me while I manage my illness. A strong union contract pro- vided me with good health insurance. Our catastrophic leave policy allows union members to donate sick leave, and I used donated sick time for two surgeries. Unionism — and strength in numbers — allows my fellow teachers to help me. I know that I am not alone. In Ardelia's words: Photo by Scott Buschman 16 perspectives

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of California Educator - September 2016