Just five months after the tragic loss of her second son, Jonah, who had passed away three weeks after his birth due to a congenital heart defect, Wendy Cox began her education at Arkansas Tech University-Ozark Campus in January 2010.
“The horrible situation really put everything into perspective,” said Cox.
She realized life was too short to waste time with her mundane office job. She wanted to restructure her life, so she quit her office job to attend college.
“ATU-Ozark was just what I needed,” said Cox. “I was older when I started. I was 36 or 37, but I still fit in on campus. I didn’t feel out of place. There were other parents, the classes were small, and the instructors were patient and helpful. It is a beautiful campus.”
When Cox first enrolled, she admitted she did not have a plan. Cox took several classes in many areas of study and still wasn’t sure which degree she wanted to pursue. Then she received a letter about the cardiovascular technology program at ATU-Ozark.
After Jonah’s passing, Cox had become interested in heart health and early detection practices. The program would only further her knowledge and interest. She knew this would be a job she would love, and it would honor Jonah at the same time. Cox was already involved as a volunteer for the American Heart Association and Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
“I knew I had to do it,” said Cox. “This program was exactly what I needed.”
After getting an associate’s degree in cardiovascular technology-cardiac sonography, she earned a position at Sparks Hospital in Fort Smith, the very hospital where Jonah was born before he was later transferred to Children’s.
Jonah’s situation was unusual. He had a congenital heart defect and several other complications. During his short life, he had undergone three open heart surgeries.
“All of the defects on his heart ended up being one in-a-million chances,” she said.
Jonah’s situation was so specific, one of the doctors Cox worked with remembered him.
“Dr. Ashcraft was talking about how they once had a transposition of the greater arteries, and I said, ‘That was my kid!’” continued Cox.
During her clinicals, Cox was able to work with the cardiologists from Children’s who had taken care of her son, which helped prepare her for working with children.
When they asked if she was okay doing pediatrics, Cox replied, “Yes, that is why I am here.”
Now, seven years after Cox quit her office job and decided to attend ATU-Ozark, she is so grateful she made the plunge.
“I didn’t even know what a congenital heart defect was when Jonah was born,” said Cox. “Now, I deal with this kind of work every day.
“I love my job,” Cox continued. “Getting that letter in the mail was fate. I am living my life to the fullest and honoring Jonah every single day.”