Hospitalized Texas A&M graduate gets big surprise in lieu of traditional ceremony

The student’s nurses went above and beyond to bring him a graduation ceremony of his very own.
The student’s nurses went above and beyond to bring him a graduation ceremony of his very own.(KBTX)
Updated: May. 25, 2021 at 11:43 PM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - A Texas A&M senior who missed his graduation ceremony after he was admitted to the hospital due to COVID-19 last week received a huge surprise to make up for it.

The student’s nurses went above and beyond to bring him a graduation ceremony of his very own. It wasn’t the ceremony finance major David Gonzalez ever thought he would get, but in the days leading up to it, he also thought he might not get one at all.

“I was very surprised. I didn’t expect that,” Gonzalez said. “It felt very nice. I really do appreciate the nurses because it really did lift my spirits up.”

David was admitted to St. Joseph Hospital just three days before he was set to graduate. Battling COVID-19, he said he began having minor symptoms at the beginning of May. About two weeks later, he started having trouble breathing and turned out to be dealing with lung inflammation, causing him to go to the emergency room.

Thanks to great care from doctors and nurses, David looked like he might be ready to leave the night before the ceremony. But his nurses had a backup plan just in case.

“The day before we had talked about it,” Matt Rollins, one of David’s nurses at the hospital, said. “What are we going to do if he isn’t able to make it to his graduation? And so we made a plan. We felt it was very important to give this young man at least some sort of recognition on an accomplishment. Graduating from college is, for most people, a formative part of their adult life.”

David missed his graduation ceremony by just a couple hours the next day. Because he didn’t show up, he didn’t even get to hear his name called while watching it on the livestream. Feeling bummed and disappointed, he was ready to leave the hospital and sign his discharge papers.

“Matt, he came in, gave me the paper and told me wait 10 minutes, I have to go do something,” Gonzalez said. “I don’t know if he actually meant it, but maybe that’s when they were planning it.”

“We already had the hallway decorated, but just kind of at the last minute, I realized we didn’t have a graduation cap,” Rollins said. “We’re crafty I guess, so we made him a proper mortar board out of an old cardboard box and a paper bag, and then his discharge paperwork, I actually tied up with a ribbon so he could graduate from the hospital.”

Rollins says the whole operation was a big collaboration among many of the nurses. One even came in on her day off to help decorate and bring David his graduation gift that included a pack of Oreos and Sour Patch Kids candy.

David says it turned out to be the best way to graduate.

“It was pretty much like my own graduation, so in a way, I kind of preferred it,” Gonzalez said. “It was all kind of just me. All the nurses were there watching and got in on it, and not even just my nurses, and they were all there across the hall clapping for me.”

“A good nurse has a servant’s heart. We were overjoyed to provide something for him,” Rollins said. “It wasn’t the graduation he was expecting or wanting, but this last year has been really rough on all of the nursing staff, and we needed a win. This was a win. We were more than happy to uplift his spirits and provide a better day for him considering what he had been through.”

David says he’s very thankful for his nurses, not just for the work they did preparing the ceremony, but the way they cared for him while he recovered from COVID-19 as well.

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