When the going gets tough, the tough . . . invent nursery rhymes.
The fall 2013 semester was particularly tough for Montgomery County Community College student Michelle Sikora. She was enrolled in a chemistry class, but her attention was divided because her son Tommy had either visited the emergency room or was admitted to the hospital seven times in eight days that semester.
“I sat in the emergency room by his bed, memorizing polyatomic anions by putting them into nursery rhymes and children’s songs,” said Sikora. “It was win-win situation! I got an A on that test, and Tommy loved listening to his Mommy sing all those letters and numbers. CH3CO2. It can happen to you, if you’re acetate.”
Sikora earned her Associate in Arts degree in Liberal Studies in May and will continue in the College’s Nursing program. Ultimately she will transfer to Drexel for the RN to BSN degree offered at Montgomery County Community College.
“This is a milestone on a journey that began for me many years ago when I took my first college classes, before many of you were born,” Sikora confessed in her graduation speech in May. “I went to a local community college that borders on a beautiful state park, and every day I had a decision to make: would I go to my classes or would I go hang out with my friends in the park? I missed a real opportunity then to complete my education at a time in my life when it would have been much easier than it is now returning to school as a single mom in my 40s.”
The birth of her son in 2010—10 weeks early—was the most important moment of her life. Tommy had a long list of health issues and acquired more, including epilepsy, over the last three and a half years.
“We spend a lot of time in the emergency room, inpatient, and at doctors’ appointments. We never know what each day will bring,” Sikora said.
“I found myself as a single mother with a medically fragile child, unable to juggle his care, a full-time job, and paying the bills. I tried, but when Tommy started having seizures and was diagnosed with epilepsy on top of all his other diagnoses, it was a game-changer,” she said.
Sikora and her son moved in with her mother in Lansdale, and Tommy was approved for home nursing. This gave her the opportunity to go back to school, which she took eagerly.
“I am proud of my accomplishments, including my 3.887 grade point average, my membership in Phi Theta Kappa, my willingness to help other students, my friendliness, and my positive attitude through adversity. I believe the challenges I have faced in caring for my son and navigating the health care system will uniquely benefit me in my career as a nurse,” she said.
Sikora is also active in church and online communities for families who have children with medical issues.
“Last year I led ‘Team Tommy’ in the Epilepsy Foundation of Southeastern PA’s 2013 Summer Stroll; we raised over $2,000 for the foundation,” she said.
In her graduation speech, she told her fellow graduates: “To everyone who helped us along the way, we say thank you. Thank you to our families and friends. Thank you to administrators, faculty, advisors and staff who supported us.”
~ Neree Aron-Sando