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Washburn Rural teacher pens book inspired by former student who died of cystic fibrosis

Published: Aug. 16, 2020 at 1:15 AM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - A Washburn Rural High School teacher has penned a new novel called "Breathtaking" that was inspired by one of her former students who died at the age of 18 from cystic fibrosis, a disease that affects the lungs and other organs.

Courtney Turcotte Bond, who is in her 17th year teaching English at Washburn Rural, met Madison Taliaffero in 2015 when she was assigned to be Madison's home-bound teacher.

At the time, Madison was 15. She had a double-lung transplant in 2012 as a result of her cystic fibrosis. However, three years later, her body was rejecting the lungs, making her too ill to come to school.

"I worked with Madison for two or three nights a week at home and really got to know her very well and know her family really well," Bond said earlier this week. "I actually did that for two years, so we became really close."

About that same time, Bond was starting to work on a novel, but she shifted gears after getting to know Madison’s story.

Madison Taliaffero, who died in 2018 at age 18 from cystic fibrosis, inspired the book "Breathtaking," written by Courtney Turcotte Bond, her former homebound English teacher.
Madison Taliaffero, who died in 2018 at age 18 from cystic fibrosis, inspired the book "Breathtaking," written by Courtney Turcotte Bond, her former homebound English teacher.(Submitted)
In this photo, Madison Taliaferro, center, is seen with Courtney Turcotte Bond, left, and Bond's husband Randall Bond, right. Both of the Bonds taught Madison when she was in high school, Courtney Bond at Washburn Rural High School and Randall Bond at Holton High School.
In this photo, Madison Taliaferro, center, is seen with Courtney Turcotte Bond, left, and Bond's husband Randall Bond, right. Both of the Bonds taught Madison when she was in high school, Courtney Bond at Washburn Rural High School and Randall Bond at Holton High School.(Submitted)
Madison Taliaferro was the inspiration for the book "Breathtaking" written by her former teacher Courtney Turcotte Bond.
Madison Taliaferro was the inspiration for the book "Breathtaking" written by her former teacher Courtney Turcotte Bond.(Submitted)

She found that Madison and her family had developed a close relationship with the family of Madison’s lung donor, Alex Lott, who died after he was injured on Nov. 2, 2012, while playing touch football before baseball practice in Mississippi.

Alex's parents came to Topeka in November 2015 to meet Madison and her family.

"I was just so mesmerized and intrigued by that story, " Bond said.

While the "Breathtaking" book isn't about Madison, it was inspired by her, something Bond got to tell the teen.

"I had told her that I had started this book and she had inspired it," Bond said. "So she knew that and was really excited. Of course, she never got to read it. I was only about a quarter of the way done when she passed away."

Bond started writing “Breathtaking” in 2017. Its official release date is Sept. 1. The book took about three years to write.

It will be published about two years after Madison’s death.

"I wanted to make sure that I got it done to honor her," Bond said. "So it's dedicated to her and her donor."

The book is designed primarily for female readers from 13 to 35, Bond said. However, test readers and reviewers have found the book appeals to people of all ages.

"It really centers around these two best friends that live next door to each other and their bedroom windows face each other," Bond said. "At night, they'll kind of sneak out and talk to each other through the windows, and they come from completely different lives."

Bond says if Alex hadn't been an organ donor, Madison may not have lived six more years.

Madison packed a wide range of activities into those six years, Bond said.

Following her sophomore year at Washburn Rural, Madison attended Holton High School, where she was vice-president of her senior class, was a member of the forensics team, served as a football team manager and was active in her church's youth group.

While she was at Holton High School, Bond’s husband, Randall Bond, taught Madison in his choir class.

"She loved being out and living life," Bond said. "The Taliaferros' always talked about quality over quantity of live. They wanted her to experience as much as she could.

"It's crazy, all the things she packed in."

Bond, 38, says she hopes those reading the book will get a new appreciation for the need for organ donation.

"There's lots of great themes, -- living life to the fullest and friendship and those kind of things," Bond says. "But I really want to emphasize the importance of organ donation."

To that end, Bond is including information on how to become an organ donor at the end of the book.

A portion of proceeds will go to memorial scholarship funds already set up in honor of Madison and Alex.

Paperback copies of the book will be available for $16.99 and eBooks are $4.99.

After its Sept. 1 release, the book will be available at Roundtable Bookstore, 826 N. Kansas Ave. in NOTO, and Juli's Coffee and Bistro, 126 S.E. 8th Ave., both in Topeka.

Books also can be purchased at the Raven, 6 E. 7th St. in Lawrence; as well as at the Beverly Brown Boutique and the Hot Spot Coffee Shop, both in Holton.

Books also will be available online at Barnes & Noble; Amazon; Target; Apple iBooks; and Kobo.

Copyright 2020 WIBW. All rights reserved.

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