TAMPA, FLA.- — A local restaurant is raising money to help a Hillsborough County School teacher after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
Ernesta Chicklowski has taught at Roosevelt Elementary for nearly two decades. Said she started experiencing symptoms like numbness in her hands and dizziness.
"I'm a pianist and a guitarist so my hands stopped in the middle of instruction, in the middle of playing and they would be frozen in these positions to the point where I couldn't move. I didn't understand. I thought maybe it was stress," she said.
She said after seeing numerous doctors, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November. She receives treatment and takes medication.
"I still want to be the best professional I can and not tell someone today is a bad day. I can't do this," she said.
Chicklowski said she loves working with her students. She also runs a small music studio in Tampa.
"I'm a dance teacher. I am a theater teacher. I produce plays for kids. I am a musician. I am a leader. I'm a teacher and all of that is still happening with this."
Chicklowski said it has been a difficult year. Her husband, Anthony, has battled his own health issues. He has been hospitalized at least 9 times in the past year. He recently was in a coma after suffering from congestive heart failure.
He was also hospitalized for internal bleeding related to an ulcer in his kidneys.
"If I could take away that disease away from my wife, I would and whatever happened, happened because she brought me back and without her, I wouldn't be here, today," said Anthony Chicklowski.
Anthony returned home in September, but he is unable to work.
Gino Tiozzo, the owner of Donatello Italian Restaurant, held a fundraising event on Thursday night for the couple. Dozens gathered at the restaurant. People participated in a silent auction and left donations in a jar.
Tiozzo said he wanted to help his friends during this difficult time. In the past, Anthony has helped out at the restaurant on busy holidays.
Tiozzo also started a GoFundMe page which has raised more than $10,000 for the couple.
"It feels great to see so many people connecting and being there for us during such a difficult chapter, but I'm blessed. I'm thankful," said Ernesta.