By Lana Sweeten-Shults
GCU News Bureau
What she wasn’t expecting was her own special delivery — her first child — to try to make an appearance around the time she was getting ready to walk the stage at GCU Arena. It seemed Baby Estrada was inspired by all the pomp and circumstance to present a bit of a circumstance during commencement.
Estrada, who is 36 weeks into her pregnancy, started feeling irregular contractions a few days before while loading up the car with her dad to make the almost six-hour trip from her home in Apple Valley, Calif., in San Bernardino County, to GCU’s campus in Phoenix for the graduation ceremony. Her doctor didn’t clear her to fly, so she decided to make the drive instead.
But not even a few irregular contractions could stop Estrada from making the trip, donning that cap and gown, and striding proudly across the stage. She would be one of the 9,009 traditional-age and working adult students who received degrees this semester, many of them participating in eight commencement ceremonies April 26-28 at the Arena. It was the largest graduating class in GCU’s 69-year history, one that touted its first computer science and Worship Arts graduates.
“I was pretty determined to walk across that stage,” the 22-year-old emergency room nurse said. “I figured I put some time into it.”
By about two hours before the ceremony, she said, her contractions were about six minutes apart.
“They were trying to talk me into using a wheelchair — multiple GCU staff, everyone involved in the ceremony,” Estrada said.
But she wasn’t having any of it.
Finally, her name was called to the stage, and with her new master of science degree in nursing in hand (the online student specialized in health care informatics, which involves the management of health records), Estrada was rushed to the hospital.
The hospital staff told her she was slightly dilated, and she and her dad waited to see if the contractions would continue to progress.
Luckily, they didn’t.
It was a relief to Estrada, who said if the baby decided to come on graduation weekend, she would have been three weeks early.
Soon after commencement and the hospital check-up, the new grad was on her way back home to California with her dad, a respiratory therapist, “So I would at least be in good hands,” she said.
What she loves about working as an emergency room nurse is that it can be an exciting place. You don’t ever know what’s going to happen from day to day.
It was a couple of months ago that she said she was kicked by a patient who had come into the ER at Barstow Community Hospital, where she works.
“It keeps you on your toes,” she said. “I enjoy ER nursing — you have the chance to work with a combination of cases you don’t get on any other floor. Working there also heightens your assessment and diagnostic skills.”
Estrada next will pursue her master’s degree and went into the program immediately after completing her bachelor’s degree in nursing. She said she knew she wanted to continue her nursing education and that an MSN would give her the opportunity to teach in the nursing field.
“It took me a little bit over a year (to get the master’s degree). I just wanted to keep the momentum going,” she said.
Just as working in the emergency room keeps her on her toes, she expects her first baby will do the same and knows it will be any day now that Baby Estrada, who wanted so much to become part of GCU’s pomp and circumstance, will finally make her debut: “We’re just waiting until she decides to make her appearance.”
Here are a few other stories from GCU Today about graduation, at news.gcu.edu:
- Making commencement memories is show of hands
- There’s a lesson in Gutierrez‘s passion for education
- Graduate‘s best-case scenario: Help society’s worst
- Graduates honor beloved biochemistry professor
- Worship Arts graduates to a new level
- All business: Time at GCU worked for these grads
- GCU launches its first computer science grads
- Grad put on parade what he learned from GCU
- Life’s roadblocks a shot in the arm for nursing student
- She saw GCU from both sides and loved the view
You can reach GCU senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 602-639-7901.