Public invited to help honored teacher with medical expenses

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By Stephen Thomas

SHEPHERDSVILLE - Every day of teaching school can be a struggle for every teacher, even the ones who truly love their job.

For Christa Altman, teaching with cystic fibrosis was its own challenge.

The former St. Aloysius instructor will be the guest of honor at an event hosted by her former school in hopes of raising much-needed funding for a future lung transplant.

According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the chronic disease primarily affects the lungs and digestive system, causing infections and disrupting food absorption.

Altman lives with a disease that, 50 years ago, allowed very few to reach adulthood. Medical progress now includes a lung transplant procedure. Though new lungs should assist Altman, she’ll always live with cystic fibrosis.

After six years at St. Aloysius, Altman finally left in March when her doctor began discussing her potential transplant.

“Looking back, I don’t know how I did it each day,” she said.

Altman’s St. Aloysius tenure included various hospital stays. Principal Steve Hart said he was immediately informed of Altman’s unique situation when he first arrived at the school.

“We’ve always had people step up to fill in for (Altman),” said Hart. “We always kept in touch with (substitutes).”

In May Altman visited St. Louis for a week of evaluation and tests. She was eventually placed on a transplant list and moved to the city by July 5. Her husband, Travis, and parents, Laura and Louis, took turns staying with her.

Altman’s condition has since leveled off, causing her name to be temporarily removed from the emergency list. However, a future transplant remains imminent.

The St. Aloysius fundraiser was created to assist Altman and her family with donations. It was also planned to recognize Altman’s teaching success.

Altman was named 2008-09 Teacher of the Year by the Archdiocese of Louisville Catholic Education Foundation, the first St. Aloysius teacher to receive the honor.

Following the award Altman was recognized in the United States House of Representatives Congressional Record. State Rep. Brett Guthrie presented a tribute to Altman for her past success.

“Ms. Altman is devoted to making sure the students that pass through her classroom receive the best education possible,” Guthrie said in the tribute “Her first-grade class consistently performs near the top on the school’s annual test that measures student achievement.”

Guthrie also recognized Altman for services outside of the classroom.

“She regularly volunteers for school activities and important causes, such as raising funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital,” said Guthrie. “By showing this spirit of volunteerism, Ms. Altman is inspiring future generations to make a difference in their communities.”

Altman was also nominated last year for the Archdiocese of Louisville Irene Casey Catholic Inclusion award, honoring teachers dedicated to meeting students’ diverse learning needs.

Hart was pleased that both the Catholic Education Foundation and Guthrie recognized Altman for her many efforts despite her physical condition.

“She was basically rewarded for the work she’s done here and the battle that she faces,” Hart said.

“It was my job to teach and that’s what I did,” said Altman. “It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s worth it because the kids need to learn and the parents are paying for it.”

Altman said keeping a strong faith and trust in God was the most important thing in her life and implementing it was crucial to any success.

“If you do that then you will get through the good and the bad,” she said. “That’s honestly the biggest reason that I have gotten as far as I have and I would tell everyone to follow that piece of advice.”

Altman was also grateful for support from her close group of family and friends.

“They would do anything for me and I thank God for that everyday,” she said. “All their prayers and thoughts are very much appreciated.”

Altman will no longer teach in the classroom but hopes to assist others in similar situations. She plans to create a Web site explaining life with cystic fibrosis, including what to expect and how to maintain a successful lifestyle.

To learn more about Altman’s personal story visit her blog at www.caringbridge.org/visit/christaaltman.

The dinner/dance in Altman’s honor takes place Saturday, Oct. 17, at St. Aloysius, located at 197 S. Plum St. in Shepherdsville.

Dinner begins at 7 p.m. with spaghetti and salad courtesy of Fazoli’s. Dancing will continue from 8 to midnight.

The event will also include a silent auction as well as a full cash bar.

Tickets are $15 per person or $28 per couple. A corporate table of 8 costs $200. All ticket purchases are tax-deductible.

To order tickets contact St. Aloysius advancement director Tom Chamberlain, (502) 905-5065 or tchamberlain@stafalcons.com.