Nursing student’s story inspires new scholarship

Melissa Varner
April 09, 2021
DeAndra Butler and her family

DeAndra Butler lost her baby when she was 36 weeks pregnant. She was at a weekly checkup when the doctor told her he couldn’t hear a heartbeat. After inducing labor, they found the umbilical cord had wrapped around the baby’s neck.

A labor and delivery nurse helped Butler through the physical and emotional pain of delivering her baby boy in January 2018. “I don't remember her name,” Butler said. “I don't remember anything she really said to me, I just know that she made me feel the best I could feel in that moment. She was so attentive, so patient and compassionate. That made me want to do that for other people.”

Butler’s experience inspired her to pursue a career as a nurse. She especially wants to make a difference for Black women, who, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women.

Butler started the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) degree program at the MUSC College of Nursing in January 2020. ABSN students like Butler can earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing on an accelerated timeline, packing four semesters into 16 months.

The COVID-19 pandemic hit just a few months into her first semester. “That just threw a wrench in everything,” she said.

To keep their family safe, Butler and her husband, Sheldon, decided he would quit his job to stay home and care for their 2-year-old daughter and Butler’s mother, who has dementia. It made money really tight, Butler said.

She felt relieved and blessed to earn back to back scholarships from the Lettie Pate Whitehead Foundation.

“The money just came at the most opportune moment,” Butler said. “I didn't really know how we were going to make it through those last two semesters. Each time we were blessed with $5,000 from the Lettie Pate Whitehead Foundation.”

The Lettie Pate Whitehead (LPW) scholarship program supports female students with financial need in nine Southeastern states. Butler is one of about 50 College of Nursing students who received a Lettie Pate Whitehead scholarship in the 2020-21 school year. Over the past 30 years, the LPW Foundation has given more than $3 million in scholarship funding to the College of Nursing.

The money helped Butler pay her tuition, which is nearly $8,000 a semester for in-state students.

Butler is set to graduate in May 2021, but it will be without her 105-year-old grandmother and her mother-in-law by her side. Both died in 2020 from complications of COVID-19.

She knows they would be so proud of her – of all she’s already accomplished and the difference she will make in countless lives as a nurse. Already, the testimonial she shared at a February 2021 MUSC Foundation board meeting inspired the creation of a new $75,000 scholarship for minority nursing students.

Butler gives thanks to the Lettie Pate Foundation, the college, her husband, and God.

“I just want to thank them and all donors. Thank you for making it possible for students like me.”

About the Author

Melissa Varner

Keywords: Thank You Notes, Nursing