(Originally posted on Expanding Learning Frontiers.)

By Brad Latzke

Last October, Annabelle, a grade seven student at Shanghai American School, came to school just like any other day. She felt a little dizzy before going home. Within hours, Annabelle suffered a devastating stroke brought on by several undiagnosed brain tumors. She underwent emergency surgery and her life was changed . . . forever.

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While we waited for news, our middle school rallied with cards and notes of support. Annabelle’s father stayed in touch with updates on her condition. From a coma to eye movements to a few whispered words, recovery was excruciatingly slow. Months passed while she endured treatments to reduce the tumors.

During this time, I learned how much Annabelle loved being part of middle school and her plan to return one day. What determination and inner strength!

Our students remained supportive but curious. Many did not know Annabelle. We shared what we could and provided education and support for them through our counselors and Advisory program. A few asked, “What else can we do?”

So we made a video tribute of best wishes, all of us in middle school. We showed Annabelle our love and that she remains a part of our community.

Annabelle came to school for a short visit in May. She met a few of her friends and they watched the video together with her parents in the counselor’s office. Here it is.

Unfortunately, I was not on campus for her visit. Her father contacted me later stating how happy Annabelle was seeing the video and is now more motivated then ever to return to school, her community. More inspiration.

What did we learn as a middle school community from the experience of helping one of our own?

• Advisory programs are a safe place for sharing feelings, getting/giving emotional support, and building community.

• All our experiences, good and bad, are learning opportunities.

• Taking a collective action step(s) to tangibly show you care has a profound impact.

Annabelle’s latest challenge is re-learning to stand up. The road to recovery remains long and arduous with more treatments and therapy.  Her story has inspired her classmates and teachers. Her family hopes that Annabelle’s journey can provide hope and inspiration to someone else in need.

Please share her story. Inspire someone.

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