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Belinda Fratini
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Did you know the person before the accident?  How did you feel when you learned about the accident?  How did you cope with the life changing event?  What can you pass on to others?



AMAZING! That’s what Shelly is all about before and after. I met Shelly in the fall of 2000. She was my daughter, Faren’s, fourth grade learning support math teacher. Faren loves school and is a hard worker, but math has always been her most changeling subject to the point of “I hate math”. That year Faren became one of Shelly’s top math students and learned more than she had in the previous three years. It was all about Shelly. Her way of teaching and relating to the students is truly a gift. All Faren talked about was Ms. White. She made learning fun, related math to things the students already new about and liked. When teaching multiplication facts, she taught them through animals (her secret to share), how creative. They would go outside and throw Frisbees and measure distances to learn measurements, what fun was that for 10 year old kids. I remember as a reward she took her top three students miniature golfing, to use numbers, adding. Shelly has to be the most creative and energic teacher I have ever met and I felt blessed that Faren had the opportunity to have her as a teacher. Faren no longer said “I hate math” after that year. We were sad to think that the next year, we would have to move on to another teacher, but in the spring of 2001 I was told Ms. White would be moving up to fifth grade and by the grace of God she would be Faren’s learning support teacher again for math. Faren couldn’t wait for school to start so she could see Ms. White again.


In August 2001, school started with a blast for Faren and then crashed. One week after school started, Shelly had her accident. We all cried and just held each other. How could God let something happen to someone like Shelly? She is so talented and has so much to offer as a teacher and person; this just couldn’t end like this. We spent the rest of the year visiting her in the hospital and wondering what would be the out come. I always told my daughter God has special plans for all of us and I truly believed that Shelly was way too valuable as a teacher for him to take right now. Her impact, the way she touched so many lives and made a difference was still greatly needed in our teaching world.


When Shelly finally came home, we went to visit her. She was determined to continue teaching in some matter. Faren needed extra help and Shelly was willing to tutor her. You know what was really amazing was that Faren never looked at her any different. She felt sorry for her, but she was still Ms.White, her math teacher. Shelly always had a sense of humor. I remember in the beginning, Faren was getting tutored and Shelly leaned to far forward and fell on the computer keyboard. At that time, she didn’t have enough strength to pull herself up, so Faren, 11 years old, pulled her up and they both laughed about what just had happened. Faren was so proud to be able to help her. Faren always worried about her, how she would get around or take care of herself, but always was real positive in Shelly presence and would say to be “Ms. White is going to be O.K. mom, I know”.


As time went on, Shelly and Faren became very close and now my relationship with Shelly has become a friendship. Shelly moved into a new house that was accommodated for her and her new life style. She was now tutoring regularly.  Faren and I would take supper to her. Faren would just visit and help Shelly with organizing her teaching stuff and keep her company when she was alone sometimes. This was a time when Shelly had to step up and start doing things on her own. We all knew she could, but she had to try and realize her abilities were still endless for her. I remember when she ordered her first food delivery. She was scared about answering the door, paying the man, but she did it and was so excited she had to tell us all. You know, while learning herself to do things differently, because that’s all it was, just a different way to get the say results, she was also teaching Faren.  She taught her how to do things, like getting her food, setting up the table for Shelly to eat, assembling special forks, cutting her food, taking care of Jockey’s needs (Shelly’s dog) and most of all learning to be patient, help others and accepting people for what and who they are. By this time, I can honestly tell you, we no longer saw Shelly’s wheelchair when we looked at her. We would take her shopping, to dinner, what ever it was always a good time.


Shelly moved into an apartment and we helped her move and get set up. Shelly had once told me that she would be there for Faren even when she goes to college. I would just laugh. But guess what, Shelly & Dad get this apartment near LVC college, which by the way is where Shelly attended.  Faren comes up with the idea that by the time she’s ready for college, dad can move out and her and Shelly could be roommates and she could go to LVC, just like Ms.White, which is where Shelly wants Faren to attend. Shelly had more alone time now because it was just her and Big Bird (her dad) so we spent a lot more time with her which was fine by us because we have grown to love her and she’s like an big sister to Faren. Still tutoring, but now her and Shelly were venturing out together they would cook and bake mini chocolate chip cookies together. Shelly was teaching Faren how to put her on some of her work out equipment, so they were helping each other and mind you still laughing all the time. Even Shelly’s dad would get in on some of the laughs, and he’s a pretty quit man. But Shelly once told me that even her dad said, it’s scary, she and Faren could be related, because they are so much alike.


I helped Shelly & Dad find the perfect house and guess what it’s near where we live. How cool is that? We all helped them move in and get comfortable. Faren spent the summer of 2006 working for Shelly doing everything from cleaning to laundry, to bathing Jockey, working on Shelly’s school stuff, organizing, computer work and what a blast they had. Shelly told me about a time when she was tutoring Faren and Faren put her on her arm machine. Shelly was getting tired, but her time was not up, so Faren would yell out loud “you can do it, you can do it”, just to cheer Shelly on. They laughed for days about that. I remember when we went shopping and we were walking through the parking lot and talking. I looked down and Shelly wasn’t beside me. I turned around and there she was leaned over in her chair laughing so hard I couldn’t understand her. Finally, she told me she hit a speed bump and fell over. We laughed about that one for a long time. But I pulled her back up in her seat and off we went to continue our shopping. There are so many stories I could tell and all the laughs and fun we have had. The bottom line is that Shelly is still Shelly. What can I say Shelly is just Shelly, we don’t even see her wheelchair anymore. We don’t even think about asking her to go away and always having to take her van to travel in or even think about where we go. Everything is so handicap accessible today and there’s always a way to get around. She is a gift in the teaching world and a wonderful, funny and free spirited person that has so much to offer someone - a student, a friend, a daughter, a companion. My hopes and dreams for Shelly is that some day she will marry a great husband and have a couple of kids because she will make a super wife and mom. Her life has only changed in the aspect of how she does the things she has always done, not whether she can still do those things.  How fortunate my family and I have been to have Shelly in our lives.          

Belinda Fratini

Thank you Belinda!