SAHEC Student Overcomes Challenges to Pursue College Degree

Photo of Kieth Yancy

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Oct. 28, 2005 – In front, from left, are Avery Delano Yancy, 4, Teva Mariah Yancy, 6, and Alexander Kyle Yancy, 8. Standing behind them at center is their father Keith Yancy.

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Oct. 24, 2005 — In 1979, while asleep on the sofa, 13-year-old Keith Yancy experienced a freak accident.  A brown recluse spider bit him once, piercing a vein and sending poisonous venom directly into his blood stream.  Upon awakening, his upper right arm felt as if it had been bruised and three days later it began turning black.

A doctor visit assured his mother it was only a bad bruise, and Yancy’s condition went misdiagnosed for two weeks.  During that time, a fever developed that wouldn’t come down except by lying in a tub of ice water, an unintentional act that saved his life.

Because he had laid on his right side, the venom settled in the upper part of his body instead of his internal organs.  Yancy was admitted to the hospital for the fever, but when doctor’s realized he was cold to the touch, they applied heating pads to his extremities to increase circulation.  Unknowing, this pulled the poison into his right hand and both feet.

His life threatening condition resulted in an immediate transfer to La Bonner Children’s Hospital in Memphis.  Upon arrival, Yancy died for three minutes, was revived and was then appointed a team of 36 doctors.  One physician had a hunch that proved to be correct, but by that time, the spider bite had claimed his hand and legs from mid-calf down.

From the beginning of his therapy, those attending him, including physiatrists, were astounded at his positive outlook and the hold he had on the situation. 

“I was shocked into maturity, thinking from the start, this is my situation, it’s not going to change, so learn how to deal with it,” Yancy said.

He was so inspiring that twice his doctor at La Bonner flew the young boy by helicopter to the hospital to speak with fellow amputees to help motivate them toward acceptance and recovery.  His stirring attitude has only strengthened in the past 26 years and now his target audience is fellow college students at the Sikeston Higher Education Center (SAHEC).

Yancy began classes at SAHEC in the spring of 2005.  His chose the Sikeston facility because of convenience and necessity.

“I don’t work a job outside the home, but I am a homemaker, single parent of three young children, and I’m a college student,” he said. “Choosing SAHEC allowed me to plan my class schedule around my kids’ activities and their school, while still managing to carry 15 credit hours a semester.”

SAHEC is only eight miles from his home, and as Southeast Missouri State University adds more upper-level courses to the facility’s curriculum, the time required on the main campus for him to complete his degree will lessen.  He said these are only a few of the reasons he appreciates SAHEC.

Yancy says attending a smaller campus like SAHEC has the feel of high school, which makes entering college, for students with or without physical disabilities, an easier transition. 

“There is more interaction with instructors at a smaller campus and that makes you feel more comfortable, and when you are comfortable, you can learn better and quicker,” he said.

He currently has a 3.6 grade point average as he works towards his major.  He attributes a great part of his success to Judy Buck, director of SAHEC, and his student advisor, Helen Steinmetz. 

“They were there for me when I began planning my future,” he said.

He said he appreciates the college funding he has received through the Pell grant, student loans and vocational rehabilitation.  Yancy says he recommends high school graduates begin their college education at one of Southeast’s regional campuses.

After having taken courses with different instructors, Yancy said he feels the experience of Southeast professors enables them to connect with students. That connection entices them to want to learn, he said.

He encourages students to not be afraid to ask for help. Yancy cringes at the thought of a student sitting in an auditorium of 100-plus students risking making bad grades or even failing a class just because they were afraid to speak up and ask what everyone else wanted to ask. 

Yancy has a true concern for the well-being of others, and as a facilitator for two ITV classes, he enjoys helping other students when he can. He sometimes requires assistance himself and is relieved to know all he has to do is ask.

He says everyone at SAHEC is understanding.

“The faculty and staff bend over backwards for me.”

Then while laughing he said, “Nine out of ten students would too.”

Yancy says he types with one hand and this becomes tiresome at times. 

“Students are always willing to finish my typing for me, and instructors are great to offer me extra time to finish a typed assignment when I need it,” he said.

Southeast’s recent purchase of new computers with accessories such as the optical mouse and sliding mouse pads for left handed students have also made tasks easier for Yancy and other physically challenged students.

Another great advantage at SAHEC is that it’s equipped with an elevator. 

“That elevator is a big help,” he said. “I work out and could walk stairs, but there might be a lot of huffing and puffing involved.” 

The building has easily accessible handicapped parking, automatic door entrances and extra wide hallways for convenience as well.

Excitement is also in the building in anticipation of the opening of a daycare center at SAHEC in January 2006. 

“Should my mother become ill and not be able to care for my children while I’m attending evening classes, SAHEC has provided other childcare options without any out- of-pocket expense to me,” he said. “How much better can it get?”

Actually things have recently improved for Yancy. He just received a new myoelectric hand. He says the folks as SAHEC seem as excited about it as he is. The technology of this prothesis allows him to hold and grip objects better. He says it is controlled by flexing the muscles in his lower arm. 

After more practice, Yancy hopes to be able to hold a Styrofoam cup without crushing it, but he really expects a big change in his ability to perform simple tasks that most people take for granted. 

Changes at SAHEC continue to enhance the prospect of those with challenging life situations in their pursuit of a college education and higher quality of life.

“Experience and a high school diploma aren’t enough anymore,” Yancy said. “Third World countries have realized this and are making changes, and we need to too.  Degrees aren’t given for a job; they’re given for a career.  I’ve had good jobs, but a better more satisfying career is coming.”  

Today as a SAHEC student with plans to get a master’s degree in psychology and to become a licensed counselor, Yancy has met challenges of uncertainty and each time emerged with great expectations of himself and his future career.