Surrounded by playful and curious youngsters at Boutte Christian Academy, Dwornette “Trudy” Fox patiently and lovingly reads a storybook to the children.
Fox is lead teacher in the “baby house” at the academy.
What these youngsters may never know is their teacher herself is a success story about overcoming childhood traumas, pushing through constant pain with three illnesses and finding her path to become the person she is now.
“I love it. I love my babies,” Fox said of her students ranging from 15 months to 26 months old. “I’m so grateful to God and the people he put in my path to help me get where I am today. They are loving and kind.”
Fox has suffered with continual and worsening pain since she was 16 years old, but it wasn’t until 2001 when she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. By then, she was also dealing with diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as coping with all the medications that came with them.
“It had gotten so bad,” she said. “I was totally disabled and I couldn’t move around to get from my room to walk 10 feet to the bathroom and I had gotten to 183 pounds. It was depressing always being in pain and always hurting, and not finding anything to ease the pain.”
Life got harder when Hurricane Katrina sent them, along with many others in Louisiana, seeking shelter at a hotel in Kenner, but they had to flee when the “one side of the hotel came off,” she said. They fled, deciding to weather the rest of the storm at home in St. Rose, but their truck broke down and they ended up in Baton Rouge at New Hope Church. From there, they got a ride to Barlett, Tenn., and stayed with family there. The American Red Cross provided medications, food and supplies until they could return home.
Their world carried on, but life was still challenging.
Fox was still healing and weary so she decided to accompany her daughter to Destiny Christian Center in LaPlace, the first of several moves that changed her life.
“I just started talking to God, saying, ‘There’s just no use in living like this,’” she said. “I asked for a change in my life.”
The change came, although she didn’t expect it to be getting salmonella poisoning from gumbo that put her in the hospital in 2010. She lost weight and immediately noticed that she was more mobile, which meant she could stand and walk more.
Fox realized how important it was to her health and found herself able to help husband in the yard by cutting the grass. She went to church more and that felt really good.
“I started feeling comfortable and love, being grateful for what God had already given me,” she said. “All the different things life – losing people and working in a hospice – had taken its toll.”
Fox stopped dwelling on the little things, making peace with her life and all her health issues and traumas. The pain did not stop, but her ability to work through it struggles did ease up.
“I got to a place in my mind – a peace,” she said. “Even though I might have a pain here or there, I would say, ‘Lord you take this pain away. I’m healed and keep moving.’”
And she did.
By 2012, Fox went from a size 16 to size 6 by working out more in the yard, cutting everyone’s grass and staying energized. She went to classes to handle her diabetes better, which helped lower and end use of medications.
Energized by these achievements, after 12 years being out of work due to fibromyalgia, she decided it was time to go to work.
She enrolled in Louisiana Rehabilitation Services (LSR) with ARC of St. Charles. Through ARC’s LSR Direct Placement program, Fox was hired part time at Boutte Christian Academy.
“I told her I love children and I’d be interested in just working in a day care or something like that,” she said. Jones told her about Boutte Christian Academy in Boutte and Fox filled out an application.
On Aug. 7, 2013, Fox was hired and Academy administrators trained her to work in a substitute position as a teacher. She loved the work so much she earned a Child Development Associate (CDA) certificate, also through ARC. She got a fulltime position in the cafeteria, which allowed her time to study. When got her certificate, she got a classroom.
“I’m very happy,” she said. “I enjoy the kids and enjoy coming to work in the morning. I get up, and do my morning prayer and devotional, get dressed and then I come on in to work.”
She still copes with fibromyalgia, but she paces herself and knows when it’s a day she had to sit and rest to help her body.
“You have to look at the total picture, even though we might have a sickness, that sickness doesn’t make us,” Fox said. “It’s not me. They say I have fibromyalgia, diabetes, but I stand on God’s word and I still move. I go because you have to. You get you’re happy zone. You look at where you’re going. You think about your blessings.”
Fox, teaching and going back to school for a bachelor’s degree in early childhood development, is considered an ARC success story.
“We have watched her grow and overcome her adversities, and could not be more proud to play a part in her success,” said Marie Clayton, ARC’s supported employment facilitator.
Fox is seriously in her happy zone and her family has assuredly noticed.
When her son in the U.S. Army returned home from Japan and went to greet his family at the airport, Fox went to great him and he didn’t recognize her.
“It’s me. It’s mom,” she told him. He replied, “You look so good. You look so happy.”
Fox said the joy just made her want to do more.