Archive for Thursday, June 21, 2007

Prairie Ridge Elementary School teacher dies

June 21, 2007

Those who knew Melissa Chandley would say she didn't know where she was going.

"She was directionally challenged," her mother Martha Chandley said with a chuckle.

"Everybody teased her about that. One of her friends even loaned her a GPS system so she could get to the lake. They had gone ahead of her and were afraid she'd never show up."

Chandley, a third-grade teacher at Prairie Ridge Elementary School, died at 7:30 a.m. Friday at Saint Luke's Medical Center after struggling with polymyositis and interstitial lung disease. Chandley lived in Edwardsville. She was 25.

Polymyositis is a rare inflammatory disease of unknown cause that affects the muscles. It can make the muscles weak, cause joint pain, degenerate muscles, cause pneumonia and lead to heart and circulation abnormalities, according to Medline Plus medical dictionary.

Interstitial lung disease includes a variety of chronic lung disorders and is characterized by damaged lung tissue, inflamed walls of the air sacs in the lung, scarred tissue between air sacs, and a stiffened lung, according to the American Lung Association.

Chandley went to the doctor's office June 6 because she wasn't feeling well, and doctors were going to put her on new remission medicine for polymyositis. She was sent on to the hospital so she could get better, her mother said.

Even after she was admitted to the hospital, the severity of Chandley's illness wasn't immediately known.

"We had no clue up until the day before she died that there was a possibility that she might not make it," Martha Chandley said.

In her last weeks of school, Melissa had laryngitis. Martha Chandley said she was having shortness of breath and growing weak, but she finished out her last day of school.

In fact, most people didn't know how sick Chandley really was.

"No matter how tired she was, if her friends wanted to go somewhere and had a job for her to do, she was always ready to go," her mother said.

Prairie Ridge librarian Katy Konovalske said all those who worked with Chandley would miss her.

"She was the most caring and exuberant and excited teacher of one of our third-grade classes, and everybody that had her adored her," she said. "She would play music in her class and it would reflect how the day was going. Classical if it was rowdy. In the beginning of the morning it was more upbeat."

Music was a big part of Chandley's life. She played in several musicals at Bonner Springs High School where she graduated in 2000.

Mark Chandley said his daughter also was very religious and always had a smile on her face.

"Melissa lived her life for the Lord," he said. "Each day she was looking for opportunity to make a difference in the world."

As a teacher at Prairie Ridge and a vacation Bible school director at her church, Chandley did what she could to make a difference.

"The disease did not define her life," Martha Chandley said. "She did not want people to think of her as a sick person."

Services for Chandley were Tuesday at the Judson Baptist Church in Kansas City, Kan.

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