Derlyne Gardiner is presently a senior B.S.N. student in the College of Nursing. Her status only recently changed as of January 2018, however, when the devastating, successive events of a car accident and the loss of everything in a house fire forced her to step out of the program for two years. Rather than be defeated and give up the dream of completing her degree, she returned to surpass expectations – and is eternally grateful to her Seton Hall family for helping to make it ever so much easier.
There is a saying about "making us stronger" when faced with extreme circumstances. Such could definitely be said for Derlyne Gardiner. The first change in life occurred when she assumed responsibility for raising her younger siblings upon the passing of her mother in 2008. Despite such a herculean task in the midst of significant loss, she persevered as guardian caregiver to her family at the same time she began doing it for others in the nursing field. Helping people was an innate part of Derlyne. Nonetheless, she never could have predicted how much her resolve would be tested, nor the fact that the kindness of others would bring her back to Seton Hall today.
Working part-time as a nursing assistant at Hackensack University Medical Center during 2014 while balancing schoolwork and her family was already posing some issues with tuition. Her financial aid was almost gone, and she questioned whether she might need to take a break with only three classes left to complete. The summer of 2016 would all but determine this when her car was struck at the driver side as she was exiting the hospital parking lot. The severe impact sent her spinning across the road, rendering her unconscious, and causing multiple physical injuries, including a temporary inability to walk. With no way to work or get to classes, Derlyne was forced to accept yet another cruel trick of fate – becoming a patient in the very place where her job was to be healer.
Six months later, rehabilitation had finally ended. Derlyne returned to work and school by using her car insurance settlement to pay her Seton Hall tuition. Then, on March 5, 2017 she received a 2:30 a.m. phone call during her shift at work. Her apartment containing everything she owned was on fire, the result of an unapproved space heater on a lower floor. She arrived at home to wait in sixteen-degree weather until 7 a.m. that morning to find that she had lost everything…except her bible and the urn containing her mother's ashes. The bible pages were still white and unharmed. Although she felt anguished, confused, cold and in shock, she sensed that somehow her mother was still with her at that moment.
The next two years were all about attempting to re-assemble a life that had seen its share of extreme adversity. Staying with a classmate, continuing to work to earn money to return to the Nursing program, finding an attic apartment to start again.
Derlyne's dream was once again put on hold – until one day, in November 2017, when Derlyne visited her former Group Dynamics professor, Maureen Byrnes, D.N.P., R.N.,CNM, and clinical assistant professor in the College of Nursing. "Where have you been, Derlyne?" questioned Byrnes. The two women had shared a mutually admirable relationship, Byrnes believing fully that this student had a greatness for nursing. She encouraged Derlyne to prepare for and take four rigorous nationally normed comprehensive exams in order to be re-admitted to the nursing program. These exams, normally taken one at a time following each class, were accomplished in four weeks – with scores well above the required 750 to pass on all of them.
It was ever more apparent to Byrnes that this student was indeed someone the University should seriously consider assisting in whatever way it could.
With Byrnes' help, and through her own committed outreach, Derlyne was fortunate enough to receive a number of scholarship awards from the University, College and The Joseph and Carmen Ana Unanue Latino Institute that allowed her to have a zero balance for the spring 2018 semester. She also received donations of nursing shoes, books and a new uniform from faculty, staff and students.
Having just returned to school in January 2018, Derlyne is effusive in her praise of what she calls her Seton Hall family, stating, "I couldn't have been close to fulfilling my dream if it wasn't for everyone here. I will be forever grateful for the academic and financial support I received from President Meehan, Dean Foley, Assistant Dean Deehan, Dr. Byrnes, Dr. Carolina, Dr. Ulak and all of the [College of Nursing] faculty. Thank you also to Ms. Stephanie Macias-Arlington from The Unanue Institute, Mrs. J. Asante from Financial Aid, and Ms. Peggy McGinley, Manager of the SHU campus bookstore. Lastly, I am grateful to Mr. Jay Judge, Associate Athletic Director, for generously providing the tickets so that I could attend the SHU men's basketball game against Butler. Angel Delgado and I are both Haitian-Dominican, and he is also an inspiration to me. We're both rebounders!"
Byrnes is quick to note, however, that while having the proper resources and support were essential, nothing else would have occurred if Derlyne were not successful academically. "She did the work and achieved this."
Derlyne hopes to be an inspiration to other students who experience difficult situations, stating, "They [students] should be inspired to remain focused and never give up on their dreams of achieving success no matter what the circumstances. Once there is passion for knowledge, no matter what obstacles we face, we will always return to what we love. We have to ask ourselves, 'what do we want, and how bad do we want it?' Then go out and earn it no matter what."
"She's going to help so many people," states Byrnes. "She's worth it."
Categories: Health and Medicine