Findlay student on road to recovery

| Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

Joe Lawlor of Findlay was active and healthy as a child, which made his medical problems earlier this year all the more confounding to those who know him.

He began complaining of breathing problems in September and October, so his mother, Dori Hill, took him to the hospital three times.

Pulmonary specialists at Children's Hospital in Lawrenceville diagnosed him with sarcoidosis, an autoimmune inflammatory disease that attacks the lungs.

They put Lawlor on a ventilator and medication. The medicine caused his body to swell and created other side effects that made it hard for him to move.

Watching her youngest child suffer “was the worst thing I ever went through in my life,” Hill said.

Lawlor, 17, is “finally starting to improve,” Dori Hill said, though he is still confined to home and not yet back to classes.

Joe Lawlor is an auto technology and cooperative education student at Parkway West Career and Technology Center in North Fayette.

“We're hoping for a full recovery” after a year of treatment, said Hill, a single mother who has three other children, all adults.

She devotes her time to nursing her son and has not been able to work because of her health issues.

Because the family has had difficulty meeting daily expenses, Parkway West students and staff are helping them out.

The school will hold a spaghetti luncheon fundraiser from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 17. Culinary arts students will prepare lunch, which will include spaghetti, meatball, salad and dessert. Cost will be $8 per adult or $5 per child.

Patrons can eat at the center or order takeout. If weather forces a school cancellation, the makeup date will be Jan. 18.

“This is going to be a great event to prepare for, because we are doing something we like to do, but at the same time, we are helping someone in need,” said Ayzia Womack, a Parkway West senior who also attends Chartiers Valley High School.

Tracy Marschik, who coordinates the cooperative education program, said Imperial Truck Body & Equipment in North Fayette employed Lawlor. He attends West Allegheny High School for academic classes and Parkway West for auto technology studies.

He worked at Imperial Truck Body in North Fayette as part of his co-op job, and hopes to return to both school and work.

Hill said Imperial Truck Body donated a hospital bed for her son, who had difficulty sleeping due to swelling and could not lie flat.

“He's one of the best kids I've had in 20 years” of working with Parkway West students, said Al Marzarrella Jr. of North Fayette. Lawlor had a good work ethic and cared about his work as a general laborer.

“He made honor roll, too,” Marzarrella said. “I told him, ‘If you make honor roll, I'll give you a raise.' And I did, too. I'd take him back in a heartbeat.”

He said the community had pulled together to help Lawlor and his mother, with the Imperial Lions and Findlay Light-Up Night committee making contributions.

“I'm really sorry this happened,” he said. “I'm glad to help; if there's anything else I can do, I will.”

Marschik said Lawlor's auto technology instructors, Richard Curry and Dave Kania, told her Lawlor is a quick learner and “an all-around good student.

“I feel wonderful … really blessed at this point,” Hill said of those who have helped her. The fundraiser “couldn't have come at a better time.”

Sandra Fischione Donovan is a freelance writer.

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