By CATHY KARRICK
MT. VERNON —
After working for many years as a program assistant in a severe behavior disorder program, Laura Lemons, 40, was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a bilateral mastectomy. However, due to the side effects of the mastectomy, she was unable to physically work with the children she was responsible for.
“I was placed in a new program that was less restrictive,” she explained. “When that program closed, I ended up on temporary disability due to no light duty.”
When deciding what to do with the rest of her life, she knew she had to return to college.
“I considered the surgery technology program, but when my doctor suggested the respiratory therapy program, I tried it and it seemed to be my niche. I have always had an interest in the medical field so it seemed to be a natural fit.”
A 1982 graduate of Mt. Vernon Township High School, Lemons felt that returning to college after so many years would be a tremendous challenge.
“My 4-year-old grandson lives with me so I enrolled him in the (Kaskaskia College) Children’s Learning Center and he was my car companion while I was in class,” she said. “The Learning Center at Kaskaskia is the best around, and the support that I got from them with my grandson was a tremendous help. I also had great support from my husband which was invaluable in my being successful. Respiratory Therapy Professor Beth Urban is very dedicated to her work and provided me with the tools I needed to be successful in the program as well.”
On May 14, Lemons graduated with a 4.0 grade point average from the KC Respiratory Therapy Program. While at KC, she was also a member of Phi Theta Kappa and was president of the Respiratory Therapy Club. Lemons now plans to receive her bachelor’s degree in health science and respiratory care from Grand Canyon University.
“Laura was an exceptional and very conscientious student,” stated Beth Urban, director of the KC Respiratory Therapy Program. “With every task given during her time in the program she always went above and beyond the expectations. Laura was the kind of student that every program director dreams of having.”
Laura is now working at St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Hospital in Mt. Vernon as a registered respiratory therapist. Her husband, Rodger, also chose to return to college, taking classes towards an Associate in Arts Degree. Laura and Rodger’s family consists of son Matthew and wife Amber Lemons, son Adam and wife Teigan Lemons, Rachel Lemons and Jacob Lemons. They are also the proud grandmother of Kaleb Keele, Ember Lemons and Ryan Lemons and are expecting two more grandchildren this year.