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Posted By: Jeffrey R. Phillips (email)
Date: 1/31/2005 at 08:12:21

Iowa Falls teacher passes away

Basketball team to wear bands in her honor

Shelly Bridgewater

IOWA FALLS—Shelly Bridgewater, a 25-year-old fifth grade school teacher from Iowa Falls, died Sunday, Jan. 16, at the University of Iowa Hospital in Iowa City due to complications with preeclampsia and HELLP Syndrome during and after childbirth. Bridgewater gave birth to a girl, Hailey Lynn, one week before her death.

“Shortly after Hailey was delivered, they (doctors) discovered a pool of blood on her liver that they believe was related to the preeclampsia. She also had HELLP Syndrome which is a rare thing. The liver wasn’t properly getting rid of the toxins and they ended up hurting her brain and that is what killed her,” a friend, Iowa Falls-Alden head boys' basketball coach, Kyle Hutchinson said. “Half of her liver was still alive, she didn’t really experience organ failure. It was really the inability of the liver and kidneys to clean the blood as they normally would.”

Hailey was the first child for Bridgewater and husband, Brad, 26. He is a second grade teacher who also coaches football and basketball at the high school. Their daughter was born Jan. 9 at 6:09 a.m. and is “doing excellent and we’re hoping she can come home some time in the next couple weeks,” Hutchinson said. “She has to meet a few requirements to leave the intensive care unit, but she is definitely ahead of schedule. She is breathing on her own, taking a bottle and gaining weight. She is doing great.”

Shelly Bridgewater began working for the school system in the fall of 2003, teaching Spanish at both the elementary and high school levels. She continued her foreign language work at the high schools in Iowa Falls and Alden before becoming a full-time fifth grade teacher. In her spare time in the spring, she assisted friend and co-worker Nikki Allen in coaching the high school girls’ tennis team.

The boys’ basketball team will be wearing red patches on their uniforms with her initials embroidered in gold for the rest of the season, because she was a “big ‘Clone fan,” K. Hutchinson said. “That will be our way to honor her.”

“It’s hard to put into words what she meant to everybody. I’ve never seen somebody so full of life. She is the most bubbly, caring person. She would give anything to help someone. I know she would have been a great mom to her little one,” friend and fellow teacher Amy Hutchinson said. “She just had an amazing personality and a way with people. She had a positive effect on everyone.”

“I’m so glad that in the short time she was in Iowa Falls that I got the chance to know her. Shelly became more of a friend to all of us than a coach,” former student and tennis player Sarah Braga said. “She was more than willing to help any of us in any way that she could. She was one of the most positive people I have ever met in my life and because of her I have become a better person.”

Every school event Tuesday night was cancelled to accommodate a special visitation and funeral service at the high school in honor of Bridgewater. Her fifth grade class will be taught by longtime teacher and recent retiree Pam Braga for the remainder of the year.

“We called in a crisis team from the AEA and they have been here all day (Monday) as well as our social worker,” Rock Run Elementary Principal Mike Swartzendruber said of services for students. “We let them know a little about the grieving process and having a different range of emotions is OK. We will have people available all week and, in the future, if needs arise. We have had students take advantage of that and come down to visit with those folks.”

K. Hutchinson said a college fund has been set up for Hailey and donations can be made to the Iowa Falls-Alden High School. There will also be a benefit dinner at the high school while the basketball teams take the court against Hampton-Dumont, Jan. 18. Next of kin families will be presented with memorials that will be hung at both Rock Run and at the high school in her honor.


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