Melanie Corporon: She's Back!
It takes a lot to keep a good woman down.
In 1989, Melanie Corporon embarked on a journey that begin at Marshall-based Missouri Valley Community Action Agency (MVCAA). Little did she know, it would be one with many twists and turns.
No stranger to Lexington, Corporon and her husband Tom returned to the area after living in Eureaka Springs, Ark. Tom took a teaching job at what was then the Lexington Vo-Tech. Corporon spent about six months as a stay-at-home Mom caring for their three-year-old son at the time.
Preferring to find work in a rural community as opposed to the city, Corporon found an opportunity to help individuals and families pull themselves out of poverty as a skilled training coordinator at MVCAA. “I worked in job training. The idea of putting people in school so that they could improve their education and skills was interesting to me,” Corporon said. “I could work with them for up to two years. I really liked it.”
After three years in this position, Corporon also wanted to expand her own skills and go back to school to learn human resources management. Later, a medical issue sidelined her plans. She suffered from a pseudo tumor that affected her vision. To add insult to injury, the medications she was taking made her ill, increased her blood pressure and depleted her potassium. She ended up in intensive care for several days. Out for about six months, she was able to return to MVCAA as a job training director. She worked in that capacity until 2004. Afteward, Corporon segued into a more people-oriented role as a community services director. This is where she found her footing.
“Every three years, I’d do a community needs assessment around issues and barriers facing people who live in poverty,” she said. “We came up with a lot of ideas and new things and from that you’d design activities and programs to combat poverty. I loved that. In the private sector, you would call what we did research and development (R&D). You’d have about three years to get your plan up and running. We rarely took more than a year.”
Corporon stayed in that position until a serious car accident forced her to resign from MVCAA. One winter night, life as Melanie knew changed. She recalls it was November 5, 2015 and she and a few colleagues had spent the day shopping in Macon, Mo. where they shopped at least once a year. “Macon has a Ben Franklin store,” she said. “They have everything from quilting to ready-made gifts. It was a fun day.”
Alone and on the drive back home, it was dark and misty. “The last thing I remember is going through Blackburn on Highway 20. I was sleepy. I’m not sure if I feel asleep…It happened so quickly.”
In her little red sports car, she came over a rise and drove a bit and then all of a sudden she hit the back of a tractor. “It was hauling those giant, circular bales of hay. Thank goodness the spikes were up,” she said. “The gentleman I hit in the tractor said, ‘are you okay, did you see me? I’ve already called someone. They’ll be here in just a minute. Don’t move.’”
When the ambulance came, Corporon could feel a heaviness in her chest. It turned out that she had 11 broken ribs. Just
hours ago, she was with friends Christmas shopping. And in a blink of an eye, she was being transported to Lafayette Regional Health Center in Lexington. “There was one young man, and I don’t know his name, but he was wonderful to me. I said, ‘can you just hold my hand,’ and he did.
Because Lafayette Regional isn’t equipped as a trauma center, she had to be transported to Centerpoint in Independence, Mo. “The same ambulance took me to Centerpoint,” she said. “I was very grateful for that because you develop a relationship with first responders in a very short amount of time.” By the way, the same gentleman that held her hand came back to check on her just days later.
Besides broken ribs, Corporon’s ankle was shattered in pieces. “They thought maybe it was just going to be my ankle and the broken ribs and I’d be able to go home in two or three days,” she said. But everything went wrong. At one point she stopped breathing and ended up in the intensive care unit. After the second surgery, her ankle was placed in a fixator. Coupled with that, she said she felt her body deteriorating from the stint in ICU.
“I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t see without my glasses. I was affected everywhere. When you are a strong, independent woman to have this happen is terrifying.”
After leaving Centerpoint, she spent several days in a skilled nursing facility only to be sent back to the hospital with internal bleeding. Afterward, she spent five weeks at St. Mary’s where she underwent physical and occupational therapy to help restore short-term memory and transition her back home.
Recovering at home for a few months, Corporon’s attempts to travel from Lexington to Marshall proved harder than she thought. She recalls traveling to Sedalia and once again feeling drowsy behind the wheel. Fearful that she would have another catastrophic accident, she did the one thing she didn’t want to do. She resigned from MVCAA.
“I felt awful,” she said. “I told our Executive Director Pam LaFrenz that she had done everything for me while I was recovering. I even considered renting a house in Marshall during the week. Leaving was really hard. They worked with me. I made many friends. I loved my job. But my priority was staying alive.”
When asked what has changed for her sense the accident, Corporon’s answer was simple yet poignant. “Priorities. I have different priorities in life. You appreciate people more. Things don’t really matter, people do.”
Today, Corporon is still on the mend, but doing much better. Her orthopedic surgeon didn’t think she’d ever walk again. He said putting her ankle back together was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. With assistance from a cane, she not only walks but has embarked on her second act as a community health worker for the Health Care Collaborative (HCC) of Rural Missouri in Lexington.