Christine Parsons is used to taking care of others. Her mother and father did that while Parsons was growing up in a small Ohio town—taking in stray animals and children who needed a loving home. Since then, Parsons has continued this tradition by becoming an Air Force medic and now, a Physician Assistant student at Jefferson College of Health Sciences, graduating in December 2014.
Parsons completed her Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Administration and an Associate Degree in Allied Health Sciences through the military. She trained as a medic at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, and then continued to Travis Air Force Base in California for more training. It was a path that was manipulated through “divine inspiration.”
The way Parsons tells it, she entered an Air Force recruiting station in 2007 and asked the recruiter what the most impossible job was to get. He said, “medic,” citing the long waiting list. He told her she wouldn’t get called for at least another year. Great, she thought. She didn’t want to do join up, but her family wanted it for her, so she could tell them that she’d tried. A week later, she was called by the same recruiter, who seemed greatly puzzled when he told her that her name has been picked out and moved to the top of that long waiting list.
It was then that she knew fate had intervened. That same deft hand of fate turned down her top choices of medic placements overseas when the Air Force sent her back to Lackland, this time to the Bone Marrow Transplant unit. It was the experience of a lifetime. As a medic, she said she was able to do a lot, including chest tubes, IVs, suturing and even assisting with the marrow transplants and picc (peripherally inserted central catheter) lines. Though this appointment was not her choice, Parsons ended up staying a year longer than is normally allowed.
“We lost 80 percent of our patients. It was the most humbling experience I’ve had. My patients ended up telling me how great life is, and they’re the ones dying. They counseled me,” she said.
Her stress resulted in migraines and nightmares, but she continued taking care of these soldiers.
“They were my main priority,” she said.
That is, until an accident involving a patient rendered her medically unable to continue the physically-demanding job. She moved to the Roanoke area, where her family had relocated, bought a log cabin that her father had built and began rescuing dogs. She has also just signed up to be a foster mom.
Parsons entered the Physician Assistant Program at Jefferson College in the fall of 2012, having the self-confidence that she had formerly lacked before the Air Force. The military, said Parsons, “made me believe in myself. I take life hour by hour.” She said her dad used to counter her frustrations by asking her, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
She will become a PA in the new year, as well as take parenting classes to be a foster mother. Currently, Parsons cares for nine dogs.
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