MAMARONECK, N.Y. -- Hundreds of Hommocks Middle School students filled the stands of the auditorium during a special basketball game this week to raise funds for one of their teachers, Pauline Cardillo, who is suffering from ALS.
Cardillo, a former seventh-grade science teacher, was diagnosed with the disease, a couple of months after the birth of her second child, according to a GoFundMe page set up to help raise funds to cover her medical bills.
The disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a progressive neurological disease without a treatment or cure. The average life expectancy is two to five years from the time of diagnosis. Its patients become paralyzed over time losing the ability to move, speak, eat, and eventually breathe on their own.
The cost of medical care and equipment needed to support an ALS patient is tremendous. Many expenses will need to be handled by her family in the near future including making modifications to her home and car to allow Pauline better accessibility, a power wheelchair for mobility, technology to allow her to communicate with her children when she is no longer able to speak, a ventilator to assist with breathing, a feeding tube to sustain her, as well as sessions with physical and speech therapists. Additional in-home care will likely be needed as the resulting condition of ALS leaves its patients unable to manage their most basic needs, said the GoFundMe page .
The page said that Cardillo's dedication to her students is without question. She was one of the first teachers to arrive each morning, and she was always the last to leave. She broadened her reach by becoming an advisor for Science Olympiad, an after school club and precursor to STEM. Within a few years, Pauline also became the Science Department's chairperson.
She had to give up teaching last spring when the physical burden of teaching full-time began to take a toll on her health, the GoFundMe page said.
Cardillo is currently participating in research studies at no benefit to herself, to provide researchers with more data to learn how the disease progresses. She is also enrolled in a clinical trial. With her support system of family, friends, and colleagues have taken part in two local ALS walks, raising thousands of dollars for ALS research and advocacy.
Her friends, fellow teachers, and students are hoping that many in the community will donate to cover the immense cost of her care. To date, $29,857 of the needed $250,000 has been raised.