PATRICK SWAYZE AND MEDICAL ASSISTANT STUDENT “ACTING IN CONCERT”
Actor Patrick Swayze described his fight with pancreatic cancer as “going through hell.” It never stopped him, however, from meeting the challenges of taking on the grueling lead role in a television series. He told Barbara Walters, “I’ve never been one to run from a challenge.” Allen School Medical Assistant student, Elena Carpenzano, matches the actor in courage, persistence and grit. She recently fought – successfully – her own challenge and battle with life-threatening illness and, like Swayze, met major challenges head-on. One could say that, although they never met each other, Swayze and Carpenzano have acted in concert [defined as performing identical actions to attain the same goal], each striving for health at convergent times. In Feb of 2005, Elena, full time mother to three-year-old daughter, Ora, while working as a pastry chef by day and attending nursing school at night, was diagnosed with leukemia. A stem cell transplant from her sister, while deemed successful at killing the leukemia, created a tumor in her brain. Treatments included torturous chemo and radiation therapies along with excruciating bone marrow transplants. She was instructed by her doctors to go home and “do nothing, go nowhere, eat healthy and be very careful.” During that time, she and Ora lived through frequent separations as Elena endured many hospitalizations during her fight to stay alive. By 2006, Elena was “back in the swing” and able to return to her nursing program. Unfortunately, the by the end of 2007, she found herself back in the hospital for surgery because the radiation treatment had damaged her teeth and it was affecting her jaw. After the surgery, she developed sepsis and dropped totally out of college after spending countless weeks, yet again, in the hospital. The moment she was released, Elena said to herself, “I really need to do something now!” She had seen commercials for Allen School and looked into it immediately. At her first visit to the campus, she made the decision to make application for the Medical Assistant program. “Let’s do this,” she remembers telling herself, “I don’t want to waste any more time.” During Elena’s training at Allen School, she made up for lost time. Maintaining a 3.97 GPA, surely a candidate for participation in the school’s Speed Staffing System™, Elena made certain to learn as much as she could about medical technology. “Everyday they are coming up with new treatments and I get frequent blood tests to check on my immune system,” Elena said, “to make sure it is still on par with my sister’s. The tumor is completely gone!” To what does Elena attribute her remarkable recovery? “To the love of my daughter,” is her response and to an especially strong commitment to returning to “a normal life and to setting a good example for her.” As Patrick Swayze said recently, “I have a great deal of faith in faith; if you believe something strong enough, it becomes true for you.” Obviously, Elena Cartenzano shares that belief.