When students at Chain O’ Lakes Elementary School participate in this year’s Jump Rope For Heart, they will jump in honor of one of their peers.
Second grader Sully Lettau had two emergency spinal surgeries last November when he had a cervical epidural hematoma on his spine.
While he is yet unable to participate in recess and physical education, he is working hard to raise money for the American Heart Association.
Through online and in-hand donations, Sully has already raised $1,600.
“Pretty awesome,” is what Polly Bigler, the school’s physical education teacher, says about his efforts.
This year, the school’s goal is for its 108 students to raise $5,000.
The students have a little more than a week to continue raising funds for the American Heart Association.
They will participate in Jump Rope For Heart on Friday, Feb. 14, during their physical education classes.
Bigler said JRFH is celebrating its 35th birthday this year, and this marks the Chain School’s 13th year of raising money for the heart association.
If the school reaches its goal, sponsors will give it a gift certificate to order $300 worth of physical education equipment. “The more we raise, the more the gift certificate is,” Bigler said.
The kickoff for this year’s event took place on Jan. 15 at the school.
On that day, a director from JRFH’s Green Bay office was at the Chain School.
“I just stood up in front of everybody and said, ‘We have a special boy in our school who had two major surgeries. Can we jump in his honor?’” Bigler said.
The director agreed to it and told the students anyone who raises $1,000 gets to drop a puck at a Green Bay Gamblers game or throw a pitch at Timber Rattler’s game.
Sully raised more than $1,000 in three days and will get to throw a pitch at a ball game.
“We emailed all of our relatives and put it on Facebook,” said his mother, Susie.
His goal was to find 150 people who would donate $5. Many donated more than $5, resulting in him quickly meeting his goal.
Others wanting to donate to the American Heart Association in Sully’s name may go to his personal Jump Rope for Heart Donation page.
That page is http://jumphoopsmwa.kintera.org/sullivanlettau and people may also support him or the school by sending a check made out to the American Heart Association to the school at N3160 Silver Lake Drive, Waupaca WI 54981.
Sully’s emergencies were not heart related, but his family is continuing to search for answers about what caused his condition.
Last Nov. 19, the youngster started having pain in his arms while he was at school.
His teacher sent him to the nurse’s office several times, before his grandmother picked him up from school.
By that time, the pain was going into his neck.
Susie Lettau is a library aide at the school, and her husband, Shannon, took him to the clinic.
“You could tell he was in pain and uncomfortable,” Susie said.
Sully was sent home from the clinic, and that evening, he became so uncomfortable he was changing his position every five to ten seconds, his mother said.
He did not sleep that night, and the next morning, they called their family physician, asking if Sully could be seen that day and also have an MRI to find out what was causing the pain.
“By that time, he could no longer walk. He would try and stand and fall down,” Susie said. “It was terrifying. It got worse in a short amount of time.”
Their family physician advised them to get to Theda Clark Medical Center in Neenah as soon as possible.
“I carried him into Theda Clark. A pediatric ER doctor was there right away. They took him for an MRI and started running blood tests,” Susie said.
Within an hour, they had the results of the MRI and a team of doctors explained to her that Sully had a cervical epidural hematoma on his spine.
“It is like a blood clot,” she said, explaining that it started at his C3 and went to his C7.
The doctors in Neenah called Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee to find out if he should be taken there.
“They wanted the hematoma removed immediately before it did more damage,” she said.
Shannon arrived at the hospital, and Sully went into surgery around 10 p.m. that day.
The next morning, he was transported by ambulance to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Susie rode with him, and Shannon followed behind them in a car.
A second MRI showed there was still some bleeding, and Sully was prepped for a second surgery, which included the removal of part of his C6 to relieve pressure on the spine, Susie said.
Searching for answers
They do not know what caused the hematoma.
Susie said it is rare condition with only about 30 documented cases in the world. Of those 30 cases, about 17 were non traumatic, she said. Sully’s fits into that category.
“In most cases, it was a car accident – something traumtic caused it,” she said.
Through research online, Susie has come across two other cases involving young boys.
This month, Sully is being tested for all rare blood diseases and having another MRI.
He is going to physical therapy, and Susie said once Sully has recovered more, he will be tested for nerve damage.
She said they know there is some permanent nerve damage.
“If we had not gotten there when we did, they said he would have been paralyzed,” Susie said. “We’re very lucky we did get there when we did.”
When asked how he is feeling now, Sully quietly responds, “Good.”