Chicago native Christy ElÁmma finds that the slower pace of Central Illinois suits her just fine. Elmma, a veterinary technician in the necropsy lab at the Veterinary Medicine Basic Sciences Building, loves to learn, and to share that knowledge with the students she works with in the lab. Elmma earned an associate’s degree in the Parkland College veterinary technician program, and then worked for a veterinary clinic in the Chicago area and later for Loyola University Medical Center before joining the UI’s staff nearly 10 years ago. Elmma also holds an associate of arts degree in fine arts from Parkland as well as a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the UI. A lifelong learner, Elmma is again a Parkland student and is studying massage therapy.
Tell me about your job here at Vet Med.
I work on the necropsy floor, trimming biopsies and tissues so the pathologists can read the slides. I also do receiving – opening samples that are delivered, giving them case numbers and routing them to the different labs – and some medical coding.
We get necropsy cases from here on campus and other veterinarians send us cases.
Some days we are really swamped and may have 12 to 15 autopsies. On a slow day, we may have one or two cases. It’s rare that we don’t have any.
In the fall, I teach the veterinary technology students from Parkland College when they come through necropsy on their clinical rotations and help with the animal autopsies. I really enjoy teaching them because it helps them better understand anatomy and the pathology of diseases.
Tell me about the massage therapy program you’re in.
I love doing the massage program. I have two more semesters to go. I will be done next August. I’ll be doing mostly human massages but I would like to do animals as well.
You get into the practical work very fast, practicing on your classmates every week. About the second or third week in the program, you get homework assignments where you go out and massage other people. You have to set those up yourself. You’re supposed to try to do as many different body types as possible. I’ve been practicing on some of my co-workers and other people I know.
It’s so nice to be able to help somebody in a way that you can really see the benefits right away. It’s something that everybody can use, whether it’s for relaxation or to alleviate pain from arthritis, injuries or carpal tunnel syndrome.
Aside from being a perpetual student, what do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
I make a lot of art: quilting, painting, jewelry. I’ve just learned how to dye fabrics, so now I’m dying fabrics to use in my fiber art. I made a quilt for my mother before she died in December 2006. We hung it on the wall in her room at the nursing home, and when she died we buried it with her as a memorial shroud.
My mother was a quilter and I used some of the fabric she had at home. My siblings and their children picked out fabrics to represent themselves. It’s very three-dimensional; I put one of my mother’s rosaries on it.
I love to garden, especially perennial flowers such as bearded iris, day lilies and peonies. The entire front yard and the yard on the south side of my house have no grass; they are entirely flowers. In the back, I have a huge shade garden. This year, I’m hoping to add a few new varieties of hostas and also coral-bells. I like to incorporate as many different colors, sizes and textures as I can. When I get going with my gardening, I spend all day on it until my body can’t take anymore. Everybody always comments about how beautiful my yard is in the spring and the summer.
I’m also a very spiritual person, although I’m not religious. I’m always thinking about becoming a better person, as far as evolving my soul, through meditation and being consciously aware of and stopping negative thought patterns. I try to devote at least a half-hour a day to meditation but with school and everything else I don’t always get around to it.
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