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University of Colorado Denver

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Patient Care

No Payne No Gain

Photo of Christina Payne

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”
Maya Angelou, Letter to My Daughter

Obstacles may get in Christina Payne’s way, but they don’t get her down. Whether of her own choosing or from events outside of her control, Christina has an inner strength and determination that pull her back on track.

Described as independent and headstrong, Christina quit high school at 16. Bored with school and enamored with the money she was earning at a fast food job, she quickly discovered that life was hard, especially without a high school diploma. “I had to grow up fast, but I’m glad I learned those lessons early as they were important for me to get where I am today.” Barely making ends meet, Christina – with the encouragement of her boyfriend Brandon (now husband)– decided to get her GED. “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for him,” says Christina. “He let me put my education first.”

After earning her GED, she enrolled in a community college and took a career aptitude test, which selected a career in pharmacy as the best fit. “I always loved science, especially chemistry, so that made sense.” She completed her pre-requisites while working at menial jobs, which kept her motivated. “I realized that there was no way I wanted to do those jobs for the rest of my life. I definitely wanted something better for myself.”  So, after completing the pre-requisites, she applied to CU where she was accepted into the pharmacy program.

“For the first two years, it was smooth sailing,” she says. “I loved every bit of it. Going to school… studying, student life – even work. Life was good.” Then during her third year of the program, she returned home from work one night, sat down on the couch and experienced sudden, severe, esophageal pain. Nothing she could do would relieve it. “I knew it was serious,” she recalls. Brandon rushed her to the hospital where a CT scan revealed a large, grapefruit size tumor in her liver. The tumor was benign, but had ruptured. Bleeding internally and losing blood rapidly, Christina underwent emergency surgery to stop the bleeding. The tumor was too big to be removed, so they waited months for it to shrink.

Miraculously, she was able to complete her third year of pharmacy school. “The Office of Student Services was fantastic and helped me every step of the way,” says Christina. She credits classmates Christine MacBrayne and Verity McArthur for their support, sending her every patient case and lecture that she missed along with their notes, “to make sure that when I was able I could study material I missed.”

Even though she was hospitalized for a month in the ICU she managed to keep up with school and write patient cases – during CPC (Comprehensive Patient Care), considered one of the most challenging parts of the curriculum. “I was so determined to try to stay caught up with my schooling that my husband and doctor ended up taking away my computer to force me to rest!”

Recovery has been slow, but Christina has never let that hinder her. The tumor has shrunk and less than six months ago, she underwent surgery to remove the tumor, the right lobe of her liver and gall bladder. Once again the school worked with her, moving her vacation rotation to coincide with surgery and the time she needed for recovery – a minimum of 6-8 weeks.

Hospitalized for three weeks post surgery, she was able to return home with the support of her husband and family to assist her in her daily activities. “Without Brandon there at home with me, I would not have been allowed to leave the hospital for another week.” Crediting her husband with nurturing her back to health, Christina says, “He is my angel and my knight in shining armor.” Playing the role of Florence Nightingale, Brandon woke up every two hours to drain fluids from ports, administer medications and make sure she was as comfortable as possible.

Today, Christina’s on the mend, albeit slowly. “I am still regaining my strength with the help of regular exercise regimen, diet and medication, although I have numerous food intolerances and physical limitations.” Despite her struggles, she feels, “my experience has helped me understand not only the healthcare portion of what patients go through while in hospital, but also what they face in their personal lives during the months after a traumatic event. This will help me provide better patient care in my career.” 

With a positive outlook and a job already lined up with Walmart after graduation, Christina’s future looks bright.