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The heart of a teacher

Teri Vance
tvance@nevadaappeal.com
Shannon Litz/Nevada Appeal
ALL |

Despite the love teacher’s aide Linda Peton is known for giving freely, her heart is about to give up.

“It’s ironic her heart is weak,” said Carson High School teacher Brian Reedy. “She’s got one of the most amazing hearts in spirit I’ve ever known. And she works with a lot of kids who need someone with that kind of heart.”

Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1991, Peton under went three rounds of chemotherapy, which resulted in congestive heart failure.

Medication and other treatments have kept her going, but now doctors are saying a heart transplant is urgent.

She will go to the University of Utah on June 1 to begin the procedure, which could take up to six months including recovery time.

If her tests show her body is ready and a new heart is available, the surgery could happen relatively quickly, she said.

Or, she could return home then be called in when the time is right.

“Everything is up in the air,” she said. “I won’t know until I get there.”

Cheery by nature, Peton, 65, is trying to keep her spirits up despite the uncertainty.

“I’m scared,” she said. “But life is scary. Anything can happen, but I feel like I still have too much to offer.”

Compounding her worry is the finances. She and her husband, Terry, a custodian at Carson High School, have maxed out their budget on and multiple trips to the hospital in Utah, spending about $1,000 each time on travel, lodging and treatment.

Students at the high school have organized fundraisers to help with previous travel expenses, but the costs associated with the transplant are beyond their means.

“It’s insurmountable,” said teacher Angila said. “But if she doesn’t do this, she’ll die.”

Peton has no place to stay once she gets there, and hospital on-campus housing runs around $1,200 a month.

She’s also looking into finding a motor home in the area, which the hospital allows onsite.

The mother of two and grandmother to two boys at the high school, Peton started working for the school district for 23 years. She regularly participates in school activities, and was named the Classified Employee of the Year for the Carson City School District in 2008.

She’s regarded as an institution at high school athletic events, where she can be found taking tickets.

“She knows every single kid who walks through the door,” Golik said. “She knows every teacher. She’s an amazing person.”

Reedy said Peton is usually the first to come to the aid of others.

“Without even thinking about it, she helps,” he said. “She’s magnanimous and self-sacrificing, a very compassionate soul.”

That’s why it’s been difficult for her to be on the other end.

“It’s real hard for me,” Peton said. I’ve always been there for other people, but now I’m the one who needs help.”

And it’s unfamiliar territory.

“It’s not like me,” she said. “I’m a doer. I like to fix things. But this is something I have no control over.”

Doctors are surprised that she still is working with her heart in such bad condition.

“But it’s what keeps me going,” she said. “My long-term goal is to get back to work. It gives me something to look forward to.”

Peton said the students keep her going, many of them wearing red bracelets to show their support.

“It’s like they’re all a part of this,” she said.

Seeing the support from the students, fellow teachers, friends and family has helped her see the beauty in her life.

“If something were to happen, and I didn’t get through this, I’ve received my blessings here,” she said.

Peton, Reedy said, is the blessing.

“We are blessed to have her every single moment we have her,” he said.