Girl, 8, battles infection as neighbors offer aid

By ALEC O'MEARA

Union Leader Correspondent

 

LONDONDERRY – Prayers and thoughts of good will from dozens of families in town remain directed toward 8-year-old Bella Tucker as she fights a rare infection that has required her to undergo a quadruple amputation.

 

"We are going to help out in any way we can because that is what we as a community do here in Londonderry," said Peter Tessitore, a family friend organizing a fundraiser for Bella this week. "That's part of why I moved to this town."

 

Bella, a third-grader at South Elementary School, has been at Boston Children's Hospital since getting flown from her home because of a bout with streptococcus pneumonia, a bacterial blood infection. Bella remained in an induced coma for her first five days at the hospital. After she awoke, doctors found that the infection had spread irreversibly to Bella's arms and legs. On April 27, doctors were forced to amputate the lower portion of each limb.

 

Bella TuckerToday, Bella continues to battle pneumonia, but the process of recovery has begun, family spokesman Tammy Kozlowski said. Bella has begun physical therapy and tutoring, and doctors are hopeful Bella will gain enough strength in the next few weeks to be transferred to Shriner's Hospital in Philadelphia, where the work will begin to outfit Bella with the tools she will need to live her life. Recovery will take months, if not years, Kozlowski said.

 

"She has up days and down days," Kozlowski said, adding she most recently visited Bella last week and she was doing well. "There are days where she is very upbeat and shows a lot of fighting spirit and says where she is angry at what has happened to her, but she has shown great spirit throughout."

 

Heartbroken by the story, residents in town have vowed to match Bella's fighting spirit by helping the family with a series of fundraisers. Tessitore, the manager of American Kenpo Academy in Londonderry, plans to keep his studio open all night this Saturday as part of a kick-a-thon to raise money for Bella's family. With students pledging 10 cents a kick and sports paraphernalia raffles, Tessitore said, he hopes to raise $5,000 for the family.

 

"I'm sure the family is just out of their mind right now, and we just want to help however we can," Tessitore said. "As long as someone is there and wants to kick a bag, I'll be there."

 

Across town, parents and faculty at South Elementary School have already raised more than $10,000 for the family since the start of April, Kozlowski said. The generosity of the community has floored Bella's parents, mother Selena Tucker and stepfather Peter Roarty, Kozlowski said. Both have expressed sincere thanks and have been touched by the letters, cards and tokens of good will that line Bella's hospital room. It is unknown whether Bella will be more comfortable with prostheses or an electric chair, Kozlowski said. What is known is significant renovations will be needed at Bella's Lantern Lane home, including the installation of a $30,000 elevator. With no idea of how much work will be needed, no estimates on the cost for the work has been done.

 

More information on fundraisers at bellatucker.org

 

The lack of a concrete goal has left Kozlowski unfazed, however. As a neighbor and friend of the family with children of her own, Kozlowski said she has good days and bad days dealing with the fundraising efforts, but she has never considered any other option.

 

"I don't know of any other way to live," Kozlowski said. "It's just what we do."

 

More information on local fundraisers for Bella are available at www.bellatucker.org.


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