From Patient to Listening Ear, MAT Student Makes the Most of Her Own Medical Experience
For years, Alassondra Teague was told her lack of energy, her sickness and her pain were all in her head and if she lost some weight, she would feel better. It wasn’t until she was near death that doctors started taking her more seriously.
“When I went to the hospital I was in a lot of pain,” she said. “They did my blood test. They thought something was wrong with the blood test. They ran it again and got even worse results. They realized I was close to dying, for real.”
Over the course of several months and three different extended hospital stays Alassondra received a series of blood transfusions, platelet transfusions and plasma pheresis treatments. Eventually she was diagnosed with five different autoimmune diseases and prescribed monthly immunotherapy treatments to help with a rare blood disorder.
Less than six months later, Alassondra was enrolling in the Medical Assistant Technician program at Florida Career College’s Orlando campus.
“I decided I wanted to go into the medical field so at least one person would be listening to people,” she said. “I wanted to help people the way I did not get help.”
‘SHE MADE ME EXTREMELY PROUD’
Going to school was not an easy decision for Alassondra. She had dropped out of school in middle school because a learning disability made it difficult to focus and the teachers she had encountered in the past had been less than helpful. Right away she discovered that Florida Career College was different. At first, the content seemed overwhelming, but the staff did their best to break it down into manageable tasks and then offered support every step of the way.
“Ms. Stefanek is the most amazing teacher. She is incredible,” Alassondra said. “I tried to quit so many times and she would answer the phone at 2 a.m. and talk me through it. Even Mr. Ryan Ramlochan, he is also amazing. There were times when I was almost crying during a test, and he would come in and talk me through and explain the question because I was frustrated. They were absolutely amazing.”
“I tell my classroom on the first day that I don’t care how old they are. Their mom and dad have to now share them with me,” said Marlena Stefanek, Alassondra’s instructor. “I’m your mama now and I want to be a proud mom on your graduation day. I will be cheering you on when you walk across that stage. We are in this together. You are not alone. You have a full support system on campus and I am almost like a parent. I want to make sure my baby is going to make it to graduation.”
Ms. Stefanek said she was always impressed that even on days when Alassondra did not feel well, she would commute for over an hour to make it to class on time and be there for herself and for her classmates. She even became an ambassador during the program to help other students succeed.
“She was a great student,” she said. “She was always ready to learn a new task, always ready to follow directions. On top of working and commuting and raising her family, she was always prepared for class and she made me extremely proud.”
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‘I UNDERSTAND WHAT THEY ARE GOING THROUGH’
With supportive instructors and classmates, Alassondra was able to make it through the program. She learned not only the skills she would need to work in the field but also some skills to manage her own health better too.
“I can actually understand and point out my symptoms when they start happening,” she said. “I actually understand what is happening in my body and with my blood and I know what to look for in my blood work.”
For her externship, Alassondra was able to get a position working at the hematologist and oncologist office she receives treatments at. At the end of her externship, she was offered a full-time position.
“Some patients are kind of angry that they have this diagnosis. They feel like they are alone,” she said. “They will sometimes take that out on someone else. I’ve heard it a few times when they say, ‘You couldn’t imagine being a patient here.’ I look at them and tell them ‘I’m a patient here too. I do treatments here too. I have a port just like you.’ I kind of explain to them that I understand what they are going through. I don’t have cancer so I can’t imagine that, but I do understand what it is like to have a million different doctors and to do lab work for all of them. After I tell them that, they seem to calm down right away and appreciate the fact that I am also a patient and I do have some idea of what they are going through. I feel like it’s helpful. It’s good for them and it’s good for me.”
Previously, Alassondra worked for Disney and after she gains some more experience in the medical field, she hopes to return to work on their medical staff there.