Like most college students, Melanie Lee, a Kansas State University senior in pre-nursing from Leavenworth, went into her college career with one major, but will graduate with a different one. However, unlike other students, her decision to change majors was due to a life-altering event.
At the age of 19, Lee suffered a hemorrhagic stroke due to a variety of congenital birth defects in her brain. She lost her ability to walk, recall certain words and part of her eyesight. As she lay in a hospital bed listening to her doctor’s prognosis, she experienced one of those moments that changes one’s life.
“I was crying, my parents were crying and my nurse just came in. She didn’t say anything. She just knelt down next to my bed and held my hand for a while,” Lee said. “She didn’t have to say anything; she was just there.”
Lee hasn’t had just one amazing nurse throughout her ordeal; she has had several who have helped her both physically and mentally overcome the challenges that accompany a stroke, like learning how to walk again.
The nurses with whom Lee interacted with during that difficult time in her life made her realize that she wanted to do what they were doing — to be that person for other people.
“I had some really great nurses who just made some of the most difficult times so much better with their encouragement,” Lee said. “I want to be that for people. I want to provide a different type of nursing — not just have a great knowledge of the medical field, but be that person who is going to be there for patients.”
The stroke gave Lee not only the desire to help others but a natural curiosity about the human body, particularly the brain. Now in her senior year at Kansas State University and holding a 3.9 GPA, she is enrolled in Structure and Function of the Human Body, an anatomy and physiology course in the university’s Division of Biology. Although Lee describes the class as one of the most challenging of her college career, it is her favorite class.
“I love human body class,” she said. “Every day I come home from class and my roommates always laugh because I have a bit of trivia to share; or they’ll say something about their body, and I’ll be able to immediately chime in and say, ‘Oh that’s not actually correct. The human body doesn’t function that way. That’s just a myth.’”
At eight credit hours, the course is challenging and time-consuming. Students are required to be in class 15 hours a week, and to keep up with the rigorous demands of the course, they are encouraged to study an additional 25-30 hours a week.
Part of the Division of Biology curriculum, the course has an average enrollment of 160 each semester. Even though it is not required for many majors, enrollment is very competitive because students have heard that they will learn a lot, said Dana Townsend, course instructor.
Students, like Lee, who have been chosen to participate in the optional cadaver dissection team, have an average of five to eight hours a week of addition workload; however, Lee knows that the benefits outweigh the costs.