Readin', 'Ritin' And Healin'

Being carried on a stretcher is the only way 18-year-old Jamie Monterroso can get to school every morning.

But despite the fact that Jamie is a quadriplegic with muscular dystrophy, he's lucky in at least one way: He's able to attend classes in a public school.

Jamie's school is part of Blythedale Children's Hospital in suburban New York, reports CBS News Correspondent Richard Schlesinger. It's a rare program for grades K-12 where the students are patients who see teachers and doctors throughout the day.

And it's hard to say who helps the healing process more.

"We know the richer the environment, the faster your progress in recovering from injury. We know there's a complex interaction between mind and body. We know that peer relations are very important for normal development in children," said Dr. Joelle Mast.

In most hospitals, what little schooling there is usually consists of one teacher visiting a kid's bedside - or at most, one room tucked away somewhere. It's nothing like a real classroom, and a far cry from a real education.

It's different at Blythedale. Amber Madrigal is 8 years old and was born with no arms. She's had to learn some skills very few children need at the same time she's learning skills all children need: reading, writing and arithmetic.

Amber says she's like to be a ballerina when she grows up.

There are students here with, among other things, heart problems, spinal cord injuries, birth defects and strokes. It can be a lot for an outsider to bear.

"You know, I have friends who say, 'How can you work there? Isn't it depressing? Don't you get overwhelmed by what you see?'" says Principal Lisa O'Shea.

"I've learned to realize that each child's case is on the one side heartbreaking and on the other side inspirational, so when you focus your energy on the inspirational end, you see how they're recovering, how they're developing, the strides they're making," O'Shea says. "It's truly uplifting to work here."

Not long ago, as Jamie and Amber watched, another class graduated. Only a tiny percentage of kids with these problems get this opportunity. And while this may not be the kind of school a parent would want their child to get into, the mothers and fathers were here looking on proudly.
  • Dan Collins

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