By Nancy Gutierrez

One third grader at Rocky Hill School will have 30 valentines on Feb. 14 thanks to his concerned classmates in Patty Hylton's class.

The students were busy last week making valentines for a classmate who has been absent since the last week in January. Students wished Alex a happy valentines day and a speedy recovery.

On Jan. 29 one of Hylton's students, Alex Bital, suffered a stroke at his home, while being monitored by doctors. Alex was diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome, a kidney disease that causes the body to eliminate good antibodies. Childhood nephrotic syndrome can occur at any age but is most common between the ages of 1-1/2 and 8, and seems to affect boys more often than girls according to the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearing House, a service of the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

A child with the nephrotic syndrome has low levels of protein in the blood and swelling resulting from buildup of salt and water.

Nephrotic syndrome is not itself a disease, but it can be the first sign of a disease that damages the tiny blood-filtering units, called glomeruli, in the kidneys. Kidneys with damaged filters may let protein leak into the urine. As a result, not enough protein is left in the blood to soak up the water. The water then moves from the blood into body tissues and causes swelling.

In addition to this illness Alex has a genetic blood disorder that affects the way his blood clots. The combination of both ailments brought on the stroke that has kept Alex in the intensive care unit at Children's Hospital of Central California in Madera.

"Alex had been at home and doctors were monitoring him," Hylton said. "It didn't seem too serious but then we heard he had a stroke."

Hylton and the class decided to make something for Alex once a week until he gets better. Last week they made pictures this week they'll be sending valentines. Hylton said Alex has been on a ventilator and can move his arms and legs only slightly.

"He is very sick so I told the children that we couldn't write letters but we would send pictures," Hylton said. "His mom showed him the pictures and she said she could see the recognition in his eyes. He recognized the children's names and had an emotional connection."

Hylton said Alex's mom Lori Flores is staying at the Ronald McDonald House to be closer to Alex, but has a-three-month-old child to take care of as well. The baby is not allowed in the intensive care unit so Flores must rely on family members to watch the child while she is with Alex.

"She can only stay with Alex if there is some-one there to take care of the baby," Hylton said. "And expenses are mounting up."

Hylton said the family needs the community's support and has set up a fund to help with medical expenses for the family. Donations can be made to the Patty Hylton for the Benefit of Alex Bital Fund at Bank of the Sierra, account number 440593430.

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