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By Donna Summerall
The Pilot Club of West Point (PCWP) welcomed Allyson Leitner, incoming president of the Pilot Club of Starkville. She has spent her life caring for family.
â€śI was a late-in-life baby,â€ť said Leitner. â€śMy mom was 40 when I was born. She developed early onset Alzheimerâ€™s in her 50s. I was always keeping an eye on her while I was growing up. While I was away at college, the family made the difficult decision to move her to a skilled nursing facility. I visited her every chance I had. My major began as nursing and changed to education. It was divine intervention for me to change my mind and become a teacher.â€ť
Leitner said sitting with her mother as she deteriorated was very hard. She passed away after seven years in a skilled nursing facility. She married after finishing college. My first child, Allie Phillips, was born and life changed from caregiving for her mother to taking care of a baby, Leitner said. Twenty-five months later another baby was on the way and her daughter was still a toddler. She said when Tyler was born, it was apparent something was wrong.
â€śHe was born with a birth defect similar to Downâ€™s Syndrome,â€ť Leitner said. â€śI was told he would never talk, never walk or be able to do anything for himself. We had nothing but gloom and doom as a prognosis. We were also told he was deaf.â€ť
She said, in time, Tyler sat up, crawled and took his first steps. After a hearing test at age 3, Tyler was found to not be deaf at all, according to Leitner. The developmental milestones he was able to achieve in spite of what doctors had said were miracles, Leitner said.
Tyler was diagnosed with leukemia in 2004, and has spent the last 10 years in and out of St. Jude Childrenâ€™s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., undergoing treatment, Leitner said. He is now 21 years old and about to graduate from high school, Leitner said she is retiring from teaching to help take care of Tyler.
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