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Del Sur Gir's Health Battle Inspires Teacher

Elizabeth Marie Himchak
Published 04/02/2008

An Oak Valley teacher and his seventh-grade student are inspiring each other to
reach physically challenging goals. Martin Reisert, the middle school’s humanities teacher
and 4S Ranch resident, will compete in the Ironman Arizona in Tempe on April 13 in honor of his student, Tehya Foussat, who is recuperating from a June 2007 spinal cord surgery
that was supposed to preserve her internal organ function.delsur

Three days before Tehya was born, her parents, Tony and Christine Foussat, learned their daughter had lipomyelomeningocele, the most severe form of spina bifida. While the condition usually prevents children from walking or running, up to last year Tehya was able to participate in swimming, gymnastics and cheerleading.

However, in November the 13-year-old Del Sur resident experienced an unexpected side effect to the spinal cord surgery, which has made walking extremely difficult, according to her mother. “Because of her age, she cannot be given medication for the pain,” Foussat said, explaining because Tehya is going through a growth spurt, she also cannot go through another surgery and it could take anywhere from months to years for her to recover. “We’re using natural therapy and biofeedback to help her heal her body, mind and spirit,” Foussat said.

Despite her physical pain and challenges — which make her miss school and her former afterschool activities — Tehya continues to have an upbeat spirit and put others’ needs or aspirations first, a trait that made Reisert want to do something for his student. “My goal for this race is to inspire her to keep inspiring herself to stay active and continue her physical therapy,” Reisert said, who also taught Tehya in sixth grade. Their motto is “he runs for her ... until she can run again.”

Reisert, who is training for his first Ironman triathlon — a competition featuring a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bicycle ride and 26.2-mile run — said he thinks of Tehya and her challenges when during his training sessions he feels sore and thinks he cannot go on.
“It’s very inspiring and when I’m in pain, it keeps me going knowing that he’s inspiring me,” Tehya said about her teacher. “(He) helps me to stay strong.”

Over the past three years, the 32-year-old has completed a half-Ironman, two marathons and 15 shorter-distance triathlon events. His wife, Heidi, was the one who got him involved in the physically demanding competitive events.

“We were both teachers at Bernardo Heights Middle School and she asked me if I was interested in the Mission Bay Triathlon,” Reisert said. “It was my first date with my (future) wife.” While Reisert said he competes only for the T-shirt, Heidi Reisert has ranked second in the half-Ironman during the past three years in the 25 to 29-year-old women’s division.

Tehya’s recent birthday wish for his wife to do well in an upcoming competition is just one of many examples of how Tehya puts others before herself, Reisert said.

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