Patchogue-Medford: Unity in Hardship

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Patchogue-Medford: Unity in Hardship

The Varsity Gymnastics team supports awareness

The Varsity Gymnastics team supports awareness

Photo by Nadine Scalzo

The Varsity Gymnastics team supports awareness

Photo by Nadine Scalzo

Photo by Nadine Scalzo

The Varsity Gymnastics team supports awareness

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As mentioned in a previous article, “Breaking Down the Suicide Disease,” trigeminal neuralgia is a disease that embodies an immense amount of facial pain for its patients. It is an unfortunate reality that in most instances, the suffering present in their everyday lives often go undetected by the general population, right underneath the noses of many. But here at Patchogue-Medford, we strive to recognize and address such issues as a tight-knit community, never ceasing to provide support regardless of the situation.

Several years ago, the Patchogue-Medford community really began to spearhead an effort to help those affected by trigeminal neuralgia. Specifically, the Special Education department at Patchogue-Medford High School decided to aid a long time colleague and friend, Ms. Kathleen Gallo. On October 7th, recognized as Internationational Trigeminal Neuralgia Awareness Day, many school faculty members, including teachers Mr. William McNally, Ms. Audra Murphy, and Ms. Nadine Scalzo, sold dozens of teal (color associated with TN) t-shirts. The purpose? Ms. Gallo’s caring friends had heard of a renowned neurological surgeon in the state of California, and had hoped he would be able to ease her pain through brain surgery. In the end, the fundraising effort was successful and Ms. Gallo was flown to California to have her surgery.

As with many medical treatments, effectiveness varies from individual to individual. Unfortunately, the surgery did not alleviate Ms. Gallo’s pain much. In spite of this, all was not lost – hundreds of people had been education about this facial pain condition, proving to be tremendously helpful in the subsequent fundraising efforts held throughout the Patchogue-Medford community. In fact, according to the Special Education teachers who lead this effort, “educating people” is often the biggest challenge with regards to any fundraiser, medical condition or not. By selling the t-shirts and spreading the word, the community as an entity was already taking one step in the right direction to become more aware of devastating diseases like trigeminal neuralgia.

Spreading awareness is key to the impact of education on such diseases as well as the breadth to which fundraisers are held. In the past years, teachers at the high school, and especially the Special Education department, have only continued to show their support for this important cause. Most recently, the Raider Varsity Gymnastics team joined in on the movement by helping to raise over $600 through a gift card fundraiser and bake sale during the fall of 2017. The money was sent to the International Face Pain Organization, supporting research to treat related illnesses as well as to provide support to those in need. This organization is only one of many around the world, dedicated to spreading awareness and providing helpful advice on coping and treatment options for related illnesses.

Photo by N. Scalzo
Teachers wear teal to support colleague who suffers from trigeminal neuralgia

Do not be mistaken – the individuals are much more than just their disease – they are warriors. For instance, Ms. Gallo has made adjustments to her life in order to continue what she loves doing – teaching. In spite of the severity of her symptoms, which ultimately caused her to resign from her teaching position, she continues to educate from home as well as advocate for public awareness of trigeminal neuralgia. In addition, Ms. Cathleen Cavanagh is a recently retired nurse who suffers from facial pains as well. As told by the Special Education teachers, “She never lost her amazing sense of humor, and her positive attitude surely helped her cope with her TN.” Pushing past the disease, she skillfully served the student body at Patchogue-Medford schools for many years. These days, you can find Ms. Cavanagh volunteering at the local soup kitchen, where she only continues her passion and commitment to serve her community and actively address issues within our society. Also, Ms. Linda Krol, like Ms. Gallo and Ms. Cavanagh, has not let anything stop her. Despite the personal challenges she continues to face today, she persistently and diligently works with students in the testing center, aiding them in overcoming challenges of their own.

Words cannot even begin to describe the outstanding perseverance and dedication these people contain. Considering all the factors and struggles they each deal with in their daily lives, they never stopped once to give up while at the same time give back to the loving Patchogue-Medford community and beyond. Trigeminal neuralgia may be a disease filled with pain and misery, but it evidently did not hinder Ms. Krol, Ms. Gallo and Ms. Cavanagh from doing what they loved and participating in their beliefs. The strength of these three women truly epitomize the character of the individuals in our community and serve as an inspiration to us all.

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