LI Shows Support for Zach Hartwell - The Caledonian-Record - St. Johnsbury, VT
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home : top news : top news October 13, 2015

LI Shows Support for Zach Hartwell
Amy Ash Nixon
Staff Writer

LYNDON CENTER -- Holding signs showing their love and support for Zachary Hartwell, the students, faculty and staff at Lyndon Institute turned out for a group photo on the school's football field Tuesday morning then walked to show support for the young man fighting a recurrence of brain cancer.

Jean Wheeler, a longtime faculty member at LI, said, "A community supporting a... teen fighting cancer who never gives up. He has taught us all so much about being a champion."

Shortly after 10:30 a.m., the main doors of the school opened and hundreds of people praying for Zach and his family streamed from all corners of campus to gather together on the football field.

The walk was shortened from original plans to go along Stevens Loop due to the weather, said Lyndonville Police Chief Jack Harris, who was standing by for traffic control. The chief's son, Jason, is one of Zach's best friends, and a member of Zachary's Angels, the Relay For Life team that has rallied in his and his family's support the past two years at the annual Relay for Life of Caledonia County event.

Donations to help the Hartwell family are being collected through LI and can be mailed to: The Zach Project; c/o Lyndon Institute, Jean Wheeler, PO Box 127, Lyndon Center, VT 05850. The school is also selling T shirts, which are $10 each. People can let Wheeler know if they would like to order T shirts, Wheeler said on Tuesday.

Reached this week in Boston, where she is at her son's side, Nancy Rexford Hartwell said, "We are overwhelmed by the support that we have received from the entire community. We are truly blessed to live here. Everywhere we go people reach out to us and it is quite humbling."

"LI, students, faculty and staff, have been there to help navigate our way as we juggle treatments with giving Zach as normal a life as possible. Whatever he needs, they make sure that he has it," said a grateful Hartwell. Her husband was part of the walk at LI on Tuesday.

Zach's mother said he is undergoing radiation treatments again. "That means living in Boston during the week while he has treatments. Today [Monday] he completed number 8 of 17. His last session is scheduled for Dec. 2nd. It is very tricky because the human brain can only withstand so much radiation without doing damage. They are pushing that as far as possible to give Zach the best chance of recovery without damage."

"He will have chemo starting a month after radiation completes. We don't know which chemo yet as there is no standard protocol for relapse. Currently, they are doing testing of his tumor to identify which strands have mutated so that they can use that info to pinpoint the best chemo options for him," said Nancy Hartwell.

Zach was diagnosed in the winter of 2011 with a malignant brain tumor. After surgery, a rare syndrome caused Zach's brain to essentially disconnect from the messages it needed to operate his body. There are just a few hundred patients around the world recovering from the syndrome, called Posterior Fossa Syndrome (PFS), his family explained.

"For now, our job is to stay positive, keep working towards Zach's recovery from both PFS and Medulloblastoma, and get him to his goal of graduating LI this year and going to LSC next year. He just wants to be a normal 18-year-old. That is his dream," Hartwell said.

"We want to thank everyone who has worked to organize this event, everyone who is walking to show their support and everyone who is praying for Zach," said Hartwell. "That is what we need most; positive thoughts and lots of prayers. Words cannot begin to express how in awe we are of the people in this community. I wish that we could give a hug to each and every one of them."

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