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Fresno teacher with life-threatening illness left school in ambulance. She needs donated time

Hear Fresno teacher talk about life-threatening illness

Elementary school teacher Nicole Stanley talks about her life-threatening illness and hope for donated sick leave so she can keep her health insurance and some income from Fresno Unified School District.
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Elementary school teacher Nicole Stanley talks about her life-threatening illness and hope for donated sick leave so she can keep her health insurance and some income from Fresno Unified School District.

Fresno teacher Nicole Stanley talks at length on a recent spring day about how much she loves her students and teaching. She giggles while recalling happy memories with fourth-graders who used to make her smile daily.

And she cries, thinking about a time when she struggled to breathe and was rushed to the hospital at the end of a school day. That time, there was no avoiding shocking students at Forkner Elementary School as they waited to board school buses as she was being loaded into the back of an ambulance. The last thing Stanley ever wanted was to scare them.

She was transported by ambulance several times from Forkner because of sudden, life-threatening medical episodes – severe allergic reactions sending her into anaphylactic shock and restricting her airways, blocking breathing.

She’s been out of the classroom since April. Stanley wants to return to work but can’t. Doctors haven’t cleared her return as she waits for answers while on catastrophic leave from Fresno Unified School District. Her illness remains undiagnosed and is getting worse.

She’s asking for help: Donated sick leave, so she can keep her insurance and some income.

The littlest things – touching a doorknob, or getting a whiff of perfume, fresh-cut grass or a bouquet of flowers – have been triggers for Stanley, igniting a swirl of symptoms. Poor air quality, exacerbated by wildfire smoke, contributed to her being hospitalized for eight days last year. Her symptoms, including head-to-toe rashes, swelling and tremors, are chronic.

“Imagine having a million ants and the ants have spikes and the spikes are on fire,” Stanley said. “That’s what it feels like inside and out.”

Sick leave needed

Stanley received some donated sick leave from fellow teachers, but that time is quickly running out. It was set to expire Tuesday, but an email blast and Facebook post from the Fresno Teachers Association last week helped solicit more donations. The association included a form that Fresno Unified employees can fill out and return to the district’s Division of Human Resources.

If Stanley’s donated sick time runs out, she will be eligible to receive health benefits through COBRA, but only for a limited time. She would also be put on a re-employment list, giving her 39 months as a permanent employee to return to work, but without income.

The 47-year-old single woman had to move back in with her parents, who live in Clovis, a few months ago.

The sick leave donations Stanley has received are “beyond appreciated” as she runs out of resources.

“I thank them from the bottom of my heart,” Stanley said.

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Carmen George is a features and news reporter for The Fresno Bee. Her stories have been recognized with Best of the West, George F. Gruner, and McClatchy President’s awards, and nine first or second place awards from the California News Publishers Association. She has a passion for sharing people’s stories to highlight issues and promote greater understanding.

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