Life as a student has been a juggling act for mother of three.

By Jennifer Bringle

Photos by Carrie Lilly

Photos by Carrie Lilly

To say Melissa Ramos-Rodriguez’s first day of school at GTCC was nerve-wracking would be a bit of an understatement.

The usual first-day jitters aside, Ramos-Rodriguez had a lot on her mind—her young son underwent his third open-heart surgery just five days before class began.

Ramos-Rodriguez’s son was born with a congenital heart defect, which has required him to have a pacemaker and several surgeries over his 11 years. He receives regular care at UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill.

His condition inspired Ramos-Rodriguez to pursue a career in the medical field, studying radiology at GTCC. She graduated on May 11, 2017.

“I started out looking at cardiac stenography after seeing my son’s weekly echocardiograms, but then I ended up in the radiology program,” she says. “It fascinated me seeing the process of caring for him in the hospital.”

Life as a student has been a juggling act for Ramos-Rodriguez. In addition to her son, she has two other children—ages 14 and 8—plus a job as a student radiographer working in the radiology department at Wesley Long Hospital in Greensboro.

“What’s been difficult for me is (my son) is on several meds and trying to care for him at UNC, making sure he has all his medications,” she says of her middle child. “And juggling this with two other children. I do have the support of my husband.”

For a time, Ramos-Rodriguez’s husband also was in school, studying at Guilford College. While she says it was pretty chaotic, the family banded together to make sure both she and her husband were able to focus on their schoolwork.

“I remind them what I’m working toward, what we’re working for, and we work together to get me the time to study,” she says.

Melissa Ramos_Rodriquez

Ramos-Rodriguez also found support from the faculty at GTCC. A private person, she was a bit reluctant at first to share what was going on with her family, but once she did, she found her professors willing to work with her to complete her assignments even when she had to miss class to care for her son.

“They’ve been extremely helpful and patient with me,” she says. “I’ve had to leave school because my son wasn’t feeling well, and I had to sit down with them and be completely honest about what was on my plate. They were patient and worked with me.”

Ramos-Rodriguez has made a strong impression on her teachers, as well, persevering to excel in the rigorous radiology program.

“Melissa is responsible and organized to the point that she has been able to be successful even with all she has going on in her life,” says Rene Parrish, radiography department chair at GTCC. “I think she’s a really strong woman. She does what she needs to do, she’s very focused and disciplined.”

Ramos-Rodriguez says her experiences in the hospital with her son give her a different perspective on patient care. She knows all too well how it feels to be on the other side, waiting for test results, and she takes special care to treat her patients as she’d want to be treated.

“I love caring for the patients and being able to help them,” she says. “I’m very patient and spend a little more time with them because they don’t know what to expect. I just try to be mindful when I’m talking to the family that I don’t want them to feel rushed or like their questions aren’t answered.”

Ramos-Rodriguez’s husband recently accepted a job that will relocate the family to Colorado. While the prospect of a move this summer sounds a bit daunting, she’s excited for the challenge, and to begin working full time in the radiology field. In the meantime, she’s relishing this moment.

“I’m proud of myself. I’m excited; I can’t wait to continue working in the field,” she says. “I’ve worked so hard for it, and I’m excited I got here through everything.”


May 22, 2017