Release date: Dec. 13, 2013
More: Click here for Facebook album!
MAYHEW – Courtney Rigdon’s family ties have made her an honorary EMCC Lion her entire life. But she didn’t officially join the pride until her father was nearly crushed to death in an ATV accident in 2006.
As she prepared to walk in EMCC’s Golden Triangle campus Fall Graduation Friday, Rigdon looked back at the series of events that led her to leave Ole Miss as a sophomore and enroll in EMCC’s Registered Nursing program. She also participated in a pinning ceremony Thursday where she received the Nightingale Award, the RN program’s highest award.
Rigdon’s father, Charles, represents Lowndes County on EMCC’s Board of Trustees, but is originally from the college’s hometown of Scooba in Kemper County. Charles Rigdon met his wife, Regena, while the two were students at the Scooba campus.
Charles Rigdon established his family in Columbus, where he owns Columbus Nissan and Hyundai, and where Courtney graduated from New Hope High School. But Courtney’s grandparents’ home in Scooba is within “hearing distance” of the college. As a child, she could hear the cheers from nearby EMCC football games during her visits.
Courtney’s uncle, Randy, is a former EMCC trustee and employee and still serves as chaplain for the 2013 NJCAA football national champion Lion football team.
Despite her loyalty to EMCC, Courtney passed on community college in favor of a university. She loved her time in Oxford, where she joined Kappa Delta Sorority, but her life was brutally interrupted during a visit home in September 2006.
While out riding ATV’s with family and friends in Kemper County, Courtney’s father was driving a side-by-side model, which features seats and a steering wheel like a car surrounded by a roll cage. The vehicle flipped and Charles was ejected. But rather than being thrown clear, the vehicle rolled over him, with the roll cage hitting him in the abdomen.
Courtney pleaded with her father to go to a hospital.
“At the time he told me ‘No, Co-Co, I’m going to be fine. I’m just going to be sore and bruised tomorrow.’ But the good Lord told me to take him, and that was my first nurse’s intuition,” Rigdon said.
Courtney began driving her father toward Meridian to visit a hospital. During the trip, Charles began to experience agonizing pain.
At the hospital, doctors told Rigdon and her family that her father had suffered major damage to the organs in his abdomen and was bleeding internally. He was placed in a medically induced coma and spent the next two-and-a-half months in the intensive care unit, where his family stayed, too.
“We lived in the ICU waiting room. We spent the night on the couches and used the end tables as kitchen tables. And I really got to see what nursing was all about and how much they do. Not only for the patient, but for the patients’ families,” said Rigdon.
It was during her family’s time in the hospital that Rigdon decided to go into nursing. She says the level of care her family received was so deep that they remain in touch with the nurses who treated her father to this day.
“My father was in a coma, so he wasn’t talking. And you only see doctors every now and then. But the nurses were there every day explaining to us what was going on with his body and why they had to do certain things so he could rest and heal. They let us know every aspect of what was going on with him and updated us on his progress,” said Rigdon.
But the nurses weren’t just counselors. Courtney saw that, as medical professionals, they had to be just as prepared as doctors to make split-second decisions based on years of education and experience.
“One time my dad’s oxygen levels were off and my aunt, who is a nurse at the hospital, walked in and knew off the top of her head what was wrong and sent him back to the ICU. That’s a nurse’s intuition. I have to give a lot of credit to the surgeons, no doubt, but if it wasn’t for the nurses my father wouldn’t be here today.”
After leaving Ole Miss to be closer to her family, Courtney spent several years working for her father before enrolling in EMCC’s Registered Nursing program in 2012. She now works in a doctor’s office and has completed her preceptorship at Baptist Memorial Hospital in Columbus.
“It’s been a tough program at EMCC. It was a huge adjustment coming to EMCC after Ole Miss, but being close to family is what I needed,” she said.
“I’ve made some amazing friends through this nursing program and I’ll cherish every memory I’ve made at EMCC.”
Courtney plans to one day move to a trauma ward in a larger city where the action will be non-stop. She says the caring nature instilled in her by her mother will help her to care for her patients’ families just as nurses cared for her family. But the drive and ambition she inherited from her father is calling her to challenge herself.
“I love that aspect of nursing. I get a sense of reward when I help save someone’s life. And with nursing you do that every day, but I like to see it as much as possible.”