Nursing Student Overcomes Grief to Graduate at Top of Her Class

When 22 year old Erica Simmons was accepted into the University of Mississippi Medical Center nursing school, she had no idea that she would not only graduate with a 4.0 average, but that she would do so while dealing with a devastating loss.

Simmons applied to the University of Mississippi’s early entry nursing program after serving as the president of Gulfport High School’s Health Occupations Students of America club during her senior year, the same year she chose to pursue a nursing career.

After being accepted into the highly competitive nursing program she moved from Oxford to Mississippi with the support of her long-time boyfriend and her parents. She says that the first year was tough and she was kept busy with her studies and finding her away around a new city. The second year for her became a nightmare.

In the fall of her second year of nursing school, her boyfriend Walter Guillot, had been under the weather. Both Simmons and Guillot had figured he just had the flu, but after remaining ill for several days, the couple went to the hospital.

Guillot was admitted and doctors immediately began to run tests. Unbelievably they found that the usually healthy 24-year-old was in heart failure and was sent by airlift to New Orleans’ Ochsner Medical Center. He died three days later of viral cardiomyopathy.

Simmons had lost her boyfriend of eight years in less than a week’s time and was devastated. She called her loss “the worst thing in the world”.

As spring semester approached, Simmons didn’t know if she would be able to concentrate on her studies, but after talking with her family she decided to return.

She was one of three students in a graduating class of 85 to earn a 4.0 GPA. She was also offered a position in the Labor and Delivery unit of UMMC.

Simmons says despite her heartbreak, she now looks forward to helping bring new lives into the world.