SAHEC Student Determined to Earn Degree despite Life-Threatening Circumstances


Photo of Janiece Payne

Janiece Payne, of East Prairie, Mo., is a sophomore at the Sikeston Area Higher Education Center.


Dec. 16, 2005 – Janiece Payne, a Sikeston Area Higher Education Center (SAHEC) student and a new mother, is the picture of dedication. Payne is so dedicated that, even while she was facing one of the most difficult times of her life, she stayed focused on her goal of completing her education at SAHEC, where she is majoring in mathematics, and ultimately earning her doctoral degree. Currently Payne, who lives in East Prairie, Mo., is a sophomore at SAHEC.

Nine months ago, not only was Payne’s dream in jeopardy, her life and the life of her unborn baby were at risk as well. When Payne was still seven weeks from her due date, she started experiencing pain during her pregnancy and her doctors discovered her blood platelet level had dropped, creating a dangerous situation for both Payne and her baby.

“The doctors weren’t sure if either one of us would make it, so they decided to take the baby early to try to at least save him,” Payne said.

Luckily, Payne and the baby both survived, and Daniel Trent Russell II was born March 16, nearly two months premature. Baby Daniel was 16 and one-half inches long and weighed only 3 pounds, 3 ounces. While his brain was fully developed, his lungs were not, Payne said.

“He spent five weeks at Saint Francis Medical Center,” she said. “And he was on monitors for three months because he had sleep apnea. Since he was still used to being in the womb and not having to breathe on his own, he would have a tendency to fall asleep and not wake up. The monitor would catch it so he wouldn’t die,” she said.

Daniel had not yet developed his sucking instinct, so he couldn’t feed on his own either.

“At first he had a tube in his stomach, and we had to teach him how to bottle feed in the hospital,” Payne said.

Her doctors discovered a bad placenta was to blame for the problems Payne experienced.

“My body was having to double-work since the placenta wasn’t working to keep the baby alive,” she said. “They told me if I had any other kids I would die. That was the hard part, because I always wanted two kids.”

Throughout her ordeal, Payne’s drive to obtain her education took her to extraordinary lengths. Daniel was born during spring break, which gave Payne a few days off, but she quickly returned to class although her baby remained hospitalized, and she was still recovering from the experience.

“I didn’t want to get behind on my class work, so between my classes at SAHEC, I would drive to the hospital,” she said.

Payne also qualified for a program through the hospital that paid for a hotel room and meals at the hospital since she lived more than 50 miles away, which enabled her to spend weekends with her new baby while he was in the hospital.

“I only missed one class,” she said. “But the teacher was very understanding and told me I could make it up.”

In addition to her worries over her baby’s progress and her resolve to keep up with her course work, Payne discovered that she also had her own health to be concerned with, but she remained determined to continue her education.

“At the end of the semester, right before finals, I found out I had a blood clot,” she said. “The doctors told me I couldn’t finish finals, but I snuck around and finished finals anyway,” she stated. “I wanted to stay in school and I didn’t want to get behind. I didn’t want to go to the hospital, but I made sure it was by a break.”

Now 9 months old, baby Daniel is doing well, despite his turbulent start, Payne reports.

“His weight is normal now, up to where he would be if he was born at the normal time,” she said. “And he’s on regular baby formula and baby food.”

Payne says she is doing well too, although the blood clot is still causing her problems.

“I had to go back to the hospital this semester, too,” she said. “The doctors have me on different medicines, and I get migraines.”

Payne says the support and personal attention she received from her instructors helped her stay on track with her studies.

“The teachers at SAHEC have been very patient with me and really work with me so I don’t get behind. They take the time to be understanding of their students’ personal situations and give you the help and support you need and want.”

Through this support and her own amazing strength and perseverance, Payne is still determined to reach her educational and professional goals. She expects to complete her education and earn her doctorate between 2012 and 2015, after which she plans to become a mathematics professor.

Payne is using this same determination to ensure a future for her new son.

“I’ve already started a savings account for Daniel’s college,” she said.