TEACHER'S RECOVERY SLOW BUT STEADY

January 28, 2002 12:00 am

By Ted Kramer

Observer Staff Writer

An Enterprise Elementary School teacher is continuing to show signs of improvement in her recovery from a life-threatening bout with meningitis.

Judy Fletcher is undergoing transitional rehabilitation at St. Alphonsus Medical Center. She is awaiting medical clearance for what could be up to 30 days of acute or more intense rehabilitation, her husband Gary told The Observer Sunday.

An infection in her mastoid sinus has been determined to be the cause of a recurring fever, Gary Fletcher said. He is hopeful that within a week she will be cleared for the acute rehabilitation.

Weve been told that an infection in a bone can take a long time to treat, Fletcher said. Its getting better. The fever isnt as high as it once was.

Still, there is not yet a target date for the start of rehabilitation nor an official estimate as to how long it will last, said Fletcher, who has remained at his wifes side through the ordeal.

Judy was diagnosed with meningitis in mid-December. She was in a coma for two weeks and on a ventilator for three weeks.

She suffered an almost total loss of hearing, but her cognitive and physical abilities are showing steady improvements, Fletcher said.

He communicates with her by writing on a dry-erase board. Although she cant hear, she can talk, he said.

The long-term prognosis for her hearing isnt known, but doctors are hoping a cochlear implant will restore some of her hearing. She has to be cleared medically before she can have the implant, the surgery for which would take place at nearby St. Lukes Hospital.

Judy is anxious to return to Enterprise and is especially concerned about getting back to her kids and teaching, Fletcher said.

Judy has received numerous cards and letters and flowers, and is very grateful for all the support, Fletcher said.

She said she wants to thank everybody for so much support, he said, relaying what Judy was saying. She says that because she cant hear she cant talk on the phone, and shes still unable to write to people, but she wants people to know how thankful she is for all the support.

Judy is anxious to have the hearing implant, Fletcher said, because she wants to get back to teaching as soon as possible. The cochlear device, though, cant be turned on until 30 days after it is implanted.

The implant, Fletcher said, should help Judy regain some of her hearing but it doesnt fix your hearing.

Fletcher said he wants people to know that he and Judy are appreciative of the outpouring of support that they have received. I havent been able to acknowledge it yet, he said.

Enterprise cheerleaders held a blanket toss during halftime of a game this weekend and raised $107.

A special account to help the Fletchers with expenses has been set up at Pioneer Bank in Enterprise.

People have been wonderful, Gary said.