The word went out to the kids in the Olathe Northwest High School marching band: Who can come help Miss B?
For Ben Rohrbaugh, 17, captain of the tuba section, his reaction was immediate.
If Rosa Adams-Bussard, their beloved band teacher — diagnosed as an “incomplete paraplegic” three months ago after a spine-altering fall — needed help, he would be there.
Throughout much of the day Saturday, so were 25 other students with hammers and nails and drills, hoisting planks of wood, digging postholes and mixing concrete to help erect a wheelchair ramp in the backyard of Adams-Bussard’s Lee’s Summit home.
“It’s kind of like we’re one huge family,” Rohrbaugh said. “She’s our eccentric mother.”
Adams-Bussard, 56, worked for 17 years as a bandleader at Lee’s Summit North High School before being hired at Olathe Northwest four years ago.
In mid-June, she damaged two vertebrae while she and her husband, percussionist John Bussard, were inside the home of friends in Brookfield, Mo., when Adams-Bussard opened a door that she mistakenly thought led to a bathroom. The light was off. She crashed to the basement.
Until recently, Adams-Bussard was being treated at Craig Hospital outside Denver, which specializes in spinal cord injuries. On Friday, students at Olathe Northwest got to see her for the first time when, as a surprise, she entered the school’s gymnasium in her motorized wheelchair at the school’s pre-homecoming pep assembly.
A throng of students — cheering, many in tears — swarmed to hug and greet her on the gym floor.
“When she came in, I didn’t expect that. I was overwhelmed. I cried,” said senior Jared Duroe, 17, trumpet section captain, who also showed up Saturday to work.
The request for help to build Adams-Bussard a ramp did not come from the teacher but from her sister-in-law, Mary Ann Potter, 71, of Blue Springs, who contacted the Home Depot in Lee’s Summit to see if the business would volunteer help and materials to the project. Bill Brock, who leads the store’s Team Depot community group, said that if Potter could get the kids to help, he would be there with the materials.
Soon after 8 a.m., they all showed: junior Gabbie Baiza, 16; twins Cameron and Greyson Sinclair; bass drum captain Mike Smith, 17; drum line captain Nick Crawford, 16; sophomore cymbal player Axel Mendez, 14; and others. For hours they worked until, about 11:20 a.m., Adams-Bussard’s van arrived.
“She’s here!” students yelled as Adams-Bussard rolled her wheelchair up her driveway.
The couple are staying in a wheelchair-accessible apartment and are talking to contractors to refit their split-level home so Adams-Bussard can have a bedroom and bathroom on the first floor. She was made aware that the students had come to help.
“I can’t believe it,” she confided. “I’m totally blown away by them.”
Adams-Bussard has limited movement on her left side. She moves her left hand and arm and can tap her foot. She sits straight and tall, and her attitude, her husband said, is nothing but positive.
Her stated goal, if rehabilitation goes well, is to get back to teaching by the beginning of next year.
“It’s all she talks about,” John Bussard said.
In the driveway, the kids whooped and hugged their teacher again and gave her a band hat signed by them all.
“Who won the game last night?” she immediately wanted to know before being given the disappointing news.
The kids laughed and joked.
“I’m sure the band did great,” she said.