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Levittown family praises principal’s help after mom’s heart attack

Julia Furnell, 7, with her principal, Frank Mortillaro,

Julia Furnell, 7, with her principal, Frank Mortillaro, at Northside School in Levittown on Thursday, March 30, 2017. Julia's father praised Mortillaro and Julia's teacher, Arlene Rissoff, for their care and concern after his wife suffered a heart attack and a stroke last week. Credit: Joshua Furnell

A Levittown man left reeling from his wife’s unexpected heart attack couldn’t be more thankful for the kindness shown to his family by his daughter’s elementary school principal and staff.

Last week, Cindy Furnell, 33, collapsed to the floor of a Hicksville gym after suffering a heart attack and later a stroke, her husband, Joshua Furnell, said. She was taken to Winthrop-University Hospital, where doctors implanted a pacemaker into the mother of two. She is now out of the hospital and being cared for by her mother.

The news came as a shock to Furnell, 37, who said his wife was in “impeccable health.”

“It really came out of nowhere,” he said. “The doctors said it was just a freak event and compared it to like when you hear about an athlete that just drops dead during a basketball game.”

During the stressful time, Furnell’s daughter, Julia, was absent for a couple of days from her second-grade class at Northside Elementary School in Levittown.

After learning of the family’s situation, Julia’s teacher, Arlene Rissoff, and Principal Frank Mortillaro both called the family several times to offer their support.

“I was just worried about the family and Julia, and wanted to do whatever I could to help them during this crisis,” said Mortillaro, who even hand-delivered the second-grader’s homework to the Furnells’ house.

Additionally, Mortillaro said the school plans to give the Furnells $200 out of its Helping Hands fund. The money is raised by staff who hold fundraisers and donate to benefit needy students or families at the school.

Joshua Furnell, an assistant principal at a school in Manhattan, said he was “blown away” by Mortillaro’s good deed.

“I know a lot of educators and principals, and Mr. Mortillaro is a rare, rare individual,” he said. “He’s in charge of hundreds of kids, and to see that kind of specialized attention is really unheard of.”


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