Teacher death sparks warning

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Last Wednesday, James F. Parker took the day off from teaching technology education at King’s Fork Middle School for a doctor’s appointment. That night, he started feeling ill.

&uot;I talked to him on Wednesday night, and he said that he was tired and didn’t feel good,&uot; said principal Talmadge Darden, who also worked with Parker at John Yeates Middle School.

On Thursday morning, Parker drove to school. A teacher saw him in the parking lot, and noticed that he didn’t look well. Parker sat down next to a light pole, and the teacher went inside and got some other faculty members to bring out a wheelchair. They brought Parker to the clinic, where it was determined that he needed to go to Obici Hospital. Once there, it was determined that he had had a heart attack, and that he had Neisseria meningitides, a bacterial infection that was attacking his blood.

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&uot;They found that his kidneys weren’t functioning, and did a cardiac cauterization,&uot; Darden said. &uot;An artery that pumps blood back into the heart was about 85 percent blocked.&uot;

A procedure using a balloon and stints to repair the artery was performed.

Parker was put on kidney dialysis, and seemed better, helped by a steady vigil of faculty members outside his room. Then on Friday, doctors attached a small camera to a wire and passed it through Parker’s naval.

A blood clot was found in his lower intestine, and the section was removed. Parker again seemed to be improving, but his blood pressure started to drop on Friday evening. He was given several units of blood, but by Saturday morning, he was found to have internal bleeding, and he body was too weak to withstand surgery. At 3:30 p.m., the 53-year-old passed away.

&uot;He was wonderful,&uot; said Darden. &uot;He was my best friend. The kids loved him to death. He always went out of his way to help others.&uot; On Monday, a moment of silence was held for Parker during the morning announcements. A member of the Suffolk Christian Church, Parker had taught for 30 years.

&uot;He was the dearest, most lovable friend and teacher,&uot; said Pat Cary, a teacher who knew Parker for 25 years. &uot;I can’t count the number of lunches he bought, or pencils and notebooks he gave away. He really cared about all the children he taught.&uot;

One such student was Shanecia Eley.

&uot;He was a nice man,&uot; she said. &uot;He always wanted us to get our work done – no talking! It really hurt us when we found out that he’d died.&uot;

Though the risk to students was very small, the school offered free preventive treatment after school on Monday, and will do so again from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. today. Students took letters home Monday regarding the death, and the treatment schedule.

Rifampin, an antibiotic medicine used to prevent the meningitis or other infections caused by the bacteria, will be given out.

Parents, students and faculty who were in close contact with Parker, approximately 105,

are encouraged to take part.

The illness is spread by close contact, such as kissing or sharing drinking glasses, utensils, cigarettes or toothbrushes.

&uot;We believe the students (and faculty) to be at low risk, since people at risk from getting sick would have to have direct contact with saliva or other bodily fluids,&uot; said Western Tidewater Health District nurse manager Pat Winter. &uot;If people feel that they or their children might be at risk, we invite them to contact their private physicians or the health department.&uot;

Because the disease can progress very rapidly, anyone who develops a fever, headache, rash, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting or eye discomfort from exposure to light should immediately be seen by a doctor.

As of about 6:30 p.m. Monday, 42 students had arrived for the preventive treatment, said Bethanne Bradshaw, spokeswoman for Suffolk Public Schools.

Contact the health department at 686-4939.