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Jun 6, 2010 2:17 PM by Chris Welty

Principal Lost Arms & Legs, But Back on Job

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - "I kept thinking, 'I came here with a kidney
stone, and now I'm going to lose all four of my limbs,"' Merlyna
Adams recalled.
That was more than a year ago. Now, with artificial arms and
legs, the veteran St. Charles Parish school administrator is back
at work as principal of St. Rose Elementary School.
Adams, 44, had checked into the hospital because of pain in her
side. She slipped into septic shock, and her dangerously low blood
pressure triggered myriad complications: congestive heart failure,
kidney failure, respiratory failure.
Then they dropped the "A" word.
It's been a long road to recovery for the St. John the Baptist
Parish native. She spent more than 70 days in the hospital in 2007,
hooked up to a respirator in intensive care for weeks at a time.
Teams of doctors, specialists and nurses tried for nine months to
avoid amputation.
After that proved impossible, Adams pushed through a year of
physical therapy, sometimes twice a day, to learn to walk on her
prosthetic legs and control her prosthetic ands. She said she has
come to embrace the change as much as she can, knowing that her
story can help motivate others who may be struggling to get through
hard times.
"I think people need to realize that whenever you're
encountering something that you didn't think you could get through,
you can," she said. "Just like they fought hard to keep me here,
I'm going to fight hard to stay here and make my life better."
Adjusting to quadruple amputation has presented plenty of
challenges. Driving, for now, is out. So is getting dressed on her
own in the morning. Once-routine tasks, from walking up stairs to
holding a pencil or eating popcorn at the movie theater, require
planning.
"Everything in life, I had to kind of figure out how to do it
differently, and I still do every day," she said.
That much is clear from a look around her desk. Her computer is
equipped with a trackball instead of a mouse; a book holder keeps
documents in place inside a folder, making page-turning more
manageable; a plastic handle on her telephone lets her pick it up
without grasping the receiver.
Many of her friends and family pitched in to help. Colleagues
sent cards, made photo collages, and even put together a cookbook
as a fundraiser to show their support.
"I had to show them that I was determined and let them know
that I was going to be OK," said Adams, who has been an educator
for 24 years.
It left a lasting impact on her co-workers and her students -
who school officials say have become more understanding and more
aware of accepting people who are different, though it takes a keen
eye to notice the principal's artificial hands.
"Just through her inspiration, it gave me an opportunity to
really tap into my creative side," said Dana Perillo, a literacy
teacher at St. Rose.
Such a strong show of support was no surprise to St. Charles
Parish schools superintendent Rodney Lafon, who described Adams as
"a genuine person and a true professional, with everything she
does and with the way she runs her school."
"Those teachers, they love her and they'd do anything for
her," Lafon said.

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