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Valerie’s Story

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In 1975 when Valerie was five and her brothers nine and thirteen, my husband was diagnosed with MS. It was a diagnosis that he could not accept and from day one he stopped being a father and husband. He went from a cane, a walker, a wheelchair, and finally a hospital bed in eight years. When he passed away after fourteen years he had a stomach tube, was catheterized and could not speak or see. 

The children grew up with a father in the house, but he was never there for them. The boys were honor students, active in sports, which at one time he loved, but he never saw them play. He missed their graduations and awards banquets. Michael went on to college and married, John graduated and started a good job. Valerie was an honors student and was an accomplished ballet dancer. She travelled to England, Scotland, and Wales on a dance tour at age sixteen, was a finalist in the Miss Teenage Philadelphia Pageant, a member of the school orchestra and student government. She attended Temple University on scholarships, grants and working part time. He missed their growing up and all their accomplishments. In turn, they had grown up watching their father turn into a vegetable. I wish that was the end of my story, but it is not.

Valerie continued at Temple, was on the Dean’s list and working part time with ventilator children as an intern at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia and majoring in Therapeutic Recreation. Although she had to stop dancing because of her rigorous schedule, she did manage to take some classes to keep in sharp. She received several academic awards and was inducted into the Golden Key Honor Society.

Right before Christmas during her senior year she complained of vertigo. The doctor gave her some pills and after a few weeks she felt better. Then in February she lost the vision in her right eye. After seeing an ophthalmologist she was admitted to the hospital. The first thing she asked me to bring her was her school books. That night the doctor called her brother and myself into the hall and told us that Valerie had MS. I could not believe that this was happening. All I could think of was that she would think of her Dad and give up too. Unknown to us, Valerie was pretty sure she had MS and was holding it from us. When we went back in the room she told us she wanted the truth. When we confirmed her thoughts she said, “Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine. I am not going to be like my Dad. I am going to do everything I planned to do with my life. The first thing she asked her doctors was if she could have children. She then told them that she had to be back in school on Monday because she had an interview for another scholarship.

In May she graduated with honors with a degree in Therapeutic Recreation as a Therapeutic Recreation Specialist and at a dinner received the only two scholarships given by her department. With the scholarship money she took classes that would allow her to attend nursing school. She attended classes in the morning and continued working at Children’s Hospital with ventilator dependent children from 3:00 p.m. until 11:30 p.m. After one year she began nursing school at Thomas Jefferson University attending during the day and working at CHOP at night. She had several minor attacks, but nothing that left her with any disabilities. Never once did she feel sorry for herself or shed a tear. Her best friends tell me that she never dwelt on her illness and people never believed it when told because she was always so vibrant and full of life.

In May of 1995 Valerie graduated from Jefferson, passed her boars and started working full-time at CHOP with her beloved ventilator children.  During her years at Jeff, Valerie met Stephen, the answer to my prayers. Stephen was a resident at Temple and being a doctor knew how uncertain their life might be, but he loved her and said that they would take it a day at a time. On June 1, 1996 Valerie Lynn Valle and Stephen Paul Gelovich, MD, were married. Through his tears his vows to her were that he had seen the sun, but never felt its warmth, he had seen the birds, but never heard their song until he met her. He told her that he hoped that he could make her life as happy and complete as she had made his. She told him that she knew that her father was her guardian angel and had sent him to her when she had given up on love. That she loved him for many reasons, some being his compassion and sincerity and for how he held her when she was sick.

Thankfully she has not had any major setbacks in eighteen years. She feels fine, exercises and keeps herself fit. She has never taken any of the medications for MS because she felt that the side effects were not worth it. She continued to work at CHOP driving from her new home in New Jersey instead of transferring to one closer. 

One June 8th while at work she went into labor and later that day gave birth the Alyssa. Valerie had a wonderful pregnancy and never had any problems after the birth. 

Stephen was offered a position in Florida and they moved there in October of 2001. In December she came back home to carry the Torch in the 2001 Olympics. Valerie continued part-time work in Florida with ventilator children in a group home. On March 28, 2004 she gave birth to Kayla again with no problems. Now that the girls are in school, Alyssa twelve and Kayla seven, she works as a school nurse at their school and one weekend a month at the group home. She coached the girl’s basketball team, helps with Kayla’s Girl Scout Troop, and takes Zumba classes.

Valerie is a courageous, dedicated young woman who is always there to help someone in need. She just keeps going and going like the Energizer Bunny.

My daughter has taught me that no matter what a person has, an illness, a loss, a disappointment, etc. they must realize that their attitude is one of the most important things that will help them conquer their problems. It may not always be a cure, but sitting around feeling sorry for themselves is not the answer.

With God’s help, prayer, and determination miracles happen. Just ask Valerie. She is our hero.


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