To say that Sara Testa has been having a difficult year would be an understatement. During a time when the Glen Cove High School junior should be focused on college tours, taking the SATs, playing soccer and generally enjoying being a teen, she has instead had to endure the better part of the school year in the hospital with an undiagnosed condition.
“It’s been a long battle for her,” says Sara’s mother, Ricki Testa.
“She spent Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, and the day of the junior prom in the hospital,” says Rose Iannelli, a family friend whose daughter, Tanni, is a classmate of Sara’s.
Sara suffered a “presumed” brain stem encephalitis which has affected her vision and her ability to eat or even to swallow food, though the cause of her illness is still unknown, and therefore, difficult to treat.
“It’s been really bad...we thought we were going to lose her,” says Iannelli.
“Her own body is attacking the brain stem,” says Ricki.
Sara was an All-Conference soccer play for the girls varsity team last fall, and was healthy until November. Then she suddenly started having headaches and went to the hospital for the first time with a migraine. Since then, things got worse, with symptoms including the inability to open her eyes, move her limbs or swallow food.
Sara has had numerous MRIs, a blood transfusion and while she has just returned home again, she does require a feeding tube. And according to Iannelli, the ongoing treatment costs include physical therapy and new eyeglasses in addition to the hospital bills.
To add to the family’s woes, Sara’s father has been out of work for more than a year.
“Things have been tight here,” says Ricki. “We lost our insurance and had to go on Medicaid, and a lot of her doctors don’t take Medicaid.”
On a recent Sunday, Iannelli and other supporters were outside of the Glen Cove Bagel Cafe asking for donations and trying to raise awareness about the struggle the local girl is going through. To date, their efforts have raised $4,800, and they are continuously looking for new ways to raise funds.
Kicks For Sara, an event sponsored by DECA and organized by Tanni Iannelli and Rosa Pangari, will take place at 3 p.m. on Friday, May 16, in the high school gym. The admission to the kickball tournament ($4 to play, $2 to watch) will go toward raising funds for the Testa family. They will also be selling soccer balls.
“Her dream is to play college soccer,” says Ricki.
And, while the 17-year-old is currently only attending one class at school every day and is mainly home schooled, Rick says, “She is forging ahead, pushing herself...she’s a very strong girl. The things she went through, I don’t think any child could survive.”
The family has been to hospitals all over the state and is currently trying to get into a children’s hospital in Pennsylvania in hopes of getting a diagnosis. Ricki says Sara even had a spinal tap and vial sent to Barcelona, Spain, but they have still not gotten a diagnosis. She says their goal is to get to National Institutes of Health (NIH).
A profile has also been created for Sara on www.youcaring.com. Those interested in contributing can visit the site or attend the kickball tournament. They are aiming to raise $150,000 by next February.
“We’re crossing our fingers and saying our prayers that this will work and we’ll find the antibodies to fix her,” says Ricki.
Wednesday, 22 October 2014 00:00
Richie Cannata may be best known for his song credits but his name will become a part of history this week. Cannata, a 28-year resident and business owner of Glen Cove, will be inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame on Thursday, Oct. 23 at The Paramount in Huntington.
As a member of the Billy Joel Band, the saxophone player was propelled to fame in 1975 when he joined the band and played on songs including “New York State of Mind” and “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.”
Saturday, 18 October 2014 00:00
If Heather Lehrman is not yet a familiar face to local pet owners, her name is likely to soon become a household name to dog lovers and families with young children, as her children’s book, Bullied at the Dog Park, was released this week. The book is based on a real-life incident with her own dog, Herbie, and fans will have a chance to meet her and Herbie at a book signing at Petco in Glen Cove on Saturday, Oct. 25.
“I wanted to help get the message out in my own way about the effects of bullying,” says Lehrman, a resident of Great Neck. “This book teaches children valuable lessons about treating all dogs (and people) with respect, and the importance of simple kindness.”
Thursday, 16 October 2014 00:00
On Tuesday, Oct. 7, the Glen Cove Finley Middle School opened their football season with a home game against Thompson Middle School. The game opened with the Glen Cove offense going on a nice drive, which saw quarterback Mike Vaughan score on a 30-yard touchdown run.
Thursday, 16 October 2014 00:00
Six North Shore High School athletes competed in the 2014 JCC Maccabi Games and led the New York Delegation to victory, winning gold. The students included Jacob Abramowitz, Brett Bennett, Drew Jacklin, Ben Lerner, Josh Mandell, and Ben Saltzman. The Maccabi Games is a week-long Olympic tournament for Jewish teenage athletes, ages 14-16 years old. It is held in numerous venues across the United States.
Bennett proudly said, “Competing in the Maccabi Games was a unique and thrilling experience for me. It not only was a highly competitive basketball tournament, but it also emphasized the importance of building strong values such as good sportsmanship, leadership, team unity, compassion and respect.
This, for me, was an experience of a lifetime!”