Fort Worth, Texas – Leeann Fortenberry, a second grade teacher who’s providing virtual instruction, remains connected with her students even while her daughter, Faith, 9, who has a form of muscular dystrophy called SMA Type 2, remains in the intensive care unit of a Fort Worth hospital with a serious infection.
Faith got sick right before the start of the first week of class.
“She’s doing okay,” her mother said Wednesday.
“Physically she’s not much better, but she is starting to talk a little bit and perk up some.”
Leann volunteered to teach South Bosque Elementary School students virtually this year to minimize her own exposure to COVID-19.
Faith was planning to attend the same school in person, but instead she developed a sore throat Sunday.
Leann was able to stay home with Faith Monday and welcomed her students to class online for their first day while Faith was vomiting and intermittently sleeping in her bedroom next door.
By Tuesday, Faith’s condition had worsened with fever, extreme fatigue, dehydration and some respiratory issues and Tuesday afternoon Faith was rushed to Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth by ambulance.
Leeann issued a desperate plea for Faith on social media.
“We have arrived to our home away from home – Cook Children’s – her white blood cell count was off the charts. Just have to figure out where. Possible sepsis. Possible pneumonia. Possible everything. Possible Covid. Geez,” she wrote.
She ended the post with the words “please pray.”
For many around the world, Faith is the face of muscular dystrophy after serving as the national ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
Nearly 500 people commented on the post as people around the world began to pray for Faith.
Word spread to Baylor, Faith’s favorite school, where a number of athletes including football players, track team members, a golfer and a member of the school’s equestrian team recorded a video message encouraging the young girl to fight.
Faith’s COVID-19 test came back negative, but she tested positive for rhinovirus and doctors as of Wednesday afternoon were still searching for the cause of the bacterial infection.
Leeann said the Midway ISD has “bent over backwards” to help accommodate her since learning of Faith’s illness and offered to bring in a substitute teacher, but Leeann says she felt it was important to find an empty room near Faith’s hospital bed from which she could continue to teach.
“I know that the first two weeks of school is when you’re building relationships with your students,” Leeann said.
“I don’t want the kids to feel left out and wonder what is going on.”
“I don’t want them feeling that they’re any different and I don’t want them to log on and go ‘well who is this?’”
Leeann said some nurses at the hospital looked on as she taught.
She scavenged for supplies, gathering straws from the hospital cafeteria for a math lesson.
She did it all, she says, with Faith’s blessing.
“Faith, bless her heart, she didn’t want me to leave the room, but she understands that mommy needs to work and mommy needs to build a relationship with her kiddos before we get into the grind of school.”
Leeann is hopeful Faith will continue to get better and will move to a regular room soon.
But regardless, Leann says she plans to meet both callings as a mother and an educator.
“I’m going to be whatever it takes to be their teacher and to make it successful,” Leeann said
“Even from the ICU.”