Peers, former students aid family of Rock Hill elementary school teacher who helped them

Hudson Miller, son of Elicia and Josh Miller, was born Oct. 30 and has cystic fibrosis.
Hudson Miller, son of Elicia and Josh Miller, was born Oct. 30 and has cystic fibrosis.

At Rock Hill's Belleview Elementary School the past few years, Elicia Pittman has been a young and eager teacher.

"A great teacher, loving, caring, giving," said Kathi Ross, a peer teacher at the school and Pittman's friend since both were teens.

Pittman taught first-graders her first few years, then became a reading recovery teacher to help those kids who needed her zeal the most. The lady who runs reading recovery for the Rock Hill schools, Polly Wingate, described Pittman as "a gem of a teacher, a go-getter, a helper."

Pittman put it this way: "My students were my whole life."

This teacher sold bracelets to raise money for other people in crisis. She taught her students songs and took them to nursing homes to sing for people who had no visitors. She volunteered for extra duties.

When she heard about a teacher at another school whose child was born with a disease, she led the charge to raise money for that teacher -- whom she had never met.

"I just thought that I had something extra to give, and I wanted my students to be giving, too," Pittman said. "The kids always wanted to help. We were a team."

In July 2007, Elicia married a handsome guy who works for the natural gas company named Josh Miller. The kids who tugged at her skirts now loved Mrs. Miller instead of Miss Pittman. They loved her just the same with a different name.

Eventually, she became pregnant, and the couple -- like almost all young couples, starting from scratch financially -- readied to start a family.

Neither Josh nor Elicia knew they were genetic carriers for cystic fibrosis, a disease that affects about 30,000 Americans by clogging their lungs and pancreas with unusually thick, sticky mucus. These obstructions lead to life-threatening infections and keep the body from properly breaking down and absorbing food.

Baby Hudson came the day before Halloween and, sure enough, he had cystic fibrosis. Doctors told Elicia that Hudson's life depended on his staying healthy his first year of life. Elicia decided to stay home rather than teach those kids she loved so much.