Teaching and helping others has been a large part of one Bellevue University professor’s life. Darrell Payne, an associate professor in the College of Science and Technology, helps individuals with their recovery journey, while also dealing with his own.
In 2018, Payne had been dealing with symptoms for about a week when he blacked out at a Best Buy.
“They did some tests on me, and then after, the doctor comes in and he had an unusually serious face,” Payne said. “He sat down and told me, ‘We found something, but we’re not sure exactly what it is yet.’”
Payne was sent to the Nebraska Medical Center for another MRI and found out he had a benign brain tumor that was 30% the size of his brain.
“I went into surgery, then I came out of the surgery and was starting to recover, and then they did another MRI and found I was bleeding inside my brain,” he said. “They were afraid it was going to blood clot and kill me, so I went into my second surgery to repair that.”
The two surgeries in June 2018 were over the span of two days, and Payne was ready to go home five days later.
Payne said he’s had a lot of different side effects after having the tumor removed.
“I’m overemotional. After the surgery it would hurt to eat, and it’s a challenge to deal with stress,” he said. “And once in awhile I get a headache.
“As best as I can tell, I haven’t lost any memory even though I have a quarter of it gone.”
Payne was back to teaching 30 days later in July 2018 after his two surgeries.
“I love teaching,” he said. “Encouraging, teaching, trying to guide. I’ve been fortunate to not work at a job in a bad environment. Bellevue University is the best environment I’ve ever worked in.”
Through his own journey of recovery after the surgery, Payne has become involved in Freeway Ministries in Omaha.
The home aims to help men on their road to recovery from addiction and getting them back on their feet after incarceration. The group volunteers across the metro area, including Council Bluffs and Bellevue.
Some of Payne’s roles at Freeway Ministries include participating in Bible study, volunteering at the different organizations such as Siena/Francis House and also building relationships with the men there.
“I just sit down and listen. And I don’t always have the answers, but sometimes they just want somebody to care and listen,” he said. “My primary function is just being a friend.”
Rick Lechner, co-founder and director of Freeway Ministries, said having Payne come to Freeway Ministries has been a blessing.
“(Payne’s) story of redemption matches their story of redemption,” Lechner said. “We realize we had a problem and needed a ‘doctor’ to help us. Darrell is like an angel to the guys."
Despite Payne coming to the ministry to help others, he’s found it easier for him to recover from surgery through the stories of the Freeway Ministries men.
“The people here, what impresses me the most, is you can love them, and they will love you, too,” he said.
“I don’t have as much pride as I used to — my Lord took a lot of that away, which is OK.
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