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After Stroke, Graduate Dedicates Herself to Completing Degree

Paris Black found friendship and support through the College of Allied Health Science's Distance Learning program.

Date: 12/5/2011
By: Katy Cosse Photos By: Provided
Three weeks before starting her first year of UC’s distance-learning program in Clinical Laboratory Sciences, Paris Black called a program coordinator at the College of Allied Health Sciences.
Paris Black
Paris Black

The 44-year-old Columbus resident had suffered a stroke, leaving her with partial paralysis, memory loss and a severe stutter, which made communication difficult.

But she was determined to continue with the program. From the hospital, she told the coordinator, "I don’t know how I’m going to do this, but I’m going to try."

Four years later, Black is graduating with a 3.28 GPA and serving as the flag bearer for the College of Allied Health Science in this month’s commencement.

Her dedication, along with the support of her fellow students, family and UC faculty and staff, helped her complete her degree, even after she had to take two quarters off to work on her recovery.

Black, a former U.S. Air Force sergeant and Gulf War veteran, was working as a medical laboratory technician in Dublin, Ohio, in 2007. When she returned to work the day after Labor Day, she suddenly found herself unable to speak.

It took days of testing for Black to receive a diagnosis of stroke/neurological incident, and, in the months of appointments and rehabilitation that followed, she remembers feeling like she was "just going through the motions."

Through the fog, she held onto the hope of completing her degree. 

"The hardest thing was losing my memory of everything—my previous schooling, people's names, even life memories," she says. "But I was just determined that it 
wasn't going to stop me. No matter what, I was going to go to school."

Eventually, her memory returned, and Paris says the routine of classes and homework helped keep her motivated. Off work and on disability, she had nothing to fill her days except medical appointments—and her classes.

"The program kept me going," says Black. "Getting on the computer every day gave me a routine. I had a system of how to study, and as I met people in the program, I formed friendships."

Online, she studied with classmates, working through difficult projects and, in some cases, helping other students understand the work. 

When one classmate asked to call her for help, she remembers replying, "You can call me, but you might be not able to understand me." She says that call turned into a friendship that helped her through much of the program, even when she had to take two quarters off. 

Even though they never sat in the same classroom, Black credits her friendships with fellow students for helping her through. "I feel like I know them and they know me, too. We can talk to each other, about our frustrations, our fears, and encourage each other."

Faculty and staff have grown to know Black as well. 

"Although she faced challenges due to the effects of the stroke and medications, Paris persevered and successfully completed her courses," says Charity Accurso, PhD, assistant clinical professor of clinical laboratory sciences. "After taking time off to recover and adjust to her situation, she returned and excelled in the program. She is truly an inspirational and dedicated woman."

"I've always been a goal-oriented person," says Black. "I just took it day by day, class by class."

Her new goal is to be certified to return to work after celebrating her graduation with her mother, friends and family.

"Everyone at UC and at home has been tremendous in supporting me with my education," she says. "When I said what I wanted to do, my friends, my neighbors, my family, the university, were all a tremendous source of support."