Benita Chester Lpn Grad DSC4724

Press Release                                                                                      
July 31, 2023
Contact: Lisa Garrett,

(By Lisa Garrett)

One Year After Suffering Stroke, Benita Chester Graduates

PENDLETON, SC — On the morning of June 26, 2022, Benita Chester started her only day off that week with an intense headache that wouldn’t ease up.  She powered through and proceeded with the day, not knowing that what lay ahead would literally challenge and change her world, physically, mentally and financially.

The 38-year-old seemingly healthy mother of four —and soon-to-be LPN student at Tri-County Technical College (TCTC) —was stopped in traffic in Anderson on her way to visit her mother in a nursing home when she says she began to have difficulty breathing and experienced complete numbness on her left side. “My head felt like it was going to explode,” she said.  Her speech was also impaired.

Chester, who at the time was working two jobs —as a patient observer for Prisma Health and as a nurse tech for Encompass Health —immediately knew something was terribly wrong.  She was able to move her car out of traffic and called 911 first and then a family member. She was five minutes from AnMed and within a few minutes EMS was treating her symptoms and transporting her to the hospital.

She was in the ER when she heard over the intercom an ED 14 alert  — she recognized that as a stroke alert  —which is when she realized her world had suddenly changed.

The doctor told her and her family, ‘It will be a long road to recovery.’

“I remember saying I was just accepted into nursing school. I was devastated because my dream of finally completing my degree was in jeopardy,” said Chester.

With no feeling on her left side and her speech slurred, she stayed in neuro ICU for five days until she began to regain sensation in her arm. She was released and went home where she continued to recover.  “I still had deficits and my words jumbled sometimes,” she said. “But I was focused on the goal of recovering and ultimately attending college classes which began in one month,” she said.

 “Thankfully I had short-term disability insurance with Prisma and was able to return to my job as a patient observer but had to quit my other job because of the lack of strength in my left hand,” she said.

“Patty Pearson, my manager in the ER at Prisma Health Laurens County Hospital, worked with me when I returned to work.  She told me about Prisma’s new apprenticeship program with TCTC and suggested I apply. When I was accepted she texted me to say, ‘I’m so glad you were accepted. This will help relieve stress and get you through school.’”

In the fall of 2022 Chester was among the 28 accepted into a new nursing apprenticeship program. Prisma Health partnered with colleges in the S.C. Technical System, pre-COVlD, to assist working adults in entry-level positions with opportunities for upward mobility through apprenticeship programs. Post-COVID, this apprenticeship nursing program  model  was  relaunched in areas of critical need to assist students with financial and other barriers. 

Chester has defied the odds. Just one year later she will walk across the stage August 3 and receive her Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) degree at TCTC’s summer commencement.

“I am so proud to finally finish what I started,” the Anderson resident said.   

Her journey began more than 10 years ago when she entered TCTC’s Surgical Technology program but personal issues forced her to drop out and not complete the degree.

“I was a single mom struggling,” she said. She did complete her associate degree in science from ECPI in 2019 and landed a job at Prisma as a registered medical assistant in the cancer institute outpatient center.

While there she was encouraged by doctors and nurse practitioners to go back and get a nursing degree. “I chose TCTC because it was personal to me. I started there and I wanted to finish there.”

She said when she entered TCTC’s LPN program, she immediately told Program Director Julie Beard that she has some deficits from the stroke and may need accommodations.

“I was still recovering and she led me to all of the school resources and helped me tremendously. As a result, I made all B’s and one C,” she said.

“Benita has shown resilience and determination throughout her journey in the Practical Nursing program,” said Beard. “’Giving up’ was never part of her vocabulary. I know she will successfully pass NCLEX-PN and will be a difference-maker in the many clients she will encounter as a nurse.”

“I am a firm believer.  What God starts, He will finish. At one point I feared I may never get my degree. I kept hearing in my mind the doctor’s words about a long road to recovery,” Chester said.

“But this past year has taught me that struggle builds character. I’ve had a challenging year. I’m grateful to Prisma for the apprenticeship program. As a single mom it was hard living paycheck to paycheck. I even faced eviction, but TCTC led to me to AIM which helped when my rent increased,” she said. 

“I am thankful I am here to see my graduation and to be a mother to my children, ages 21, 20, 16 and 12. They got me through my why – why do I want to be a nurse?  Because I owe it to myself, my kids and my patients.  I consider it a gift to be a nurse,” said Chester, who after graduation begins a one-year nurse residency program at Prisma Health Laurens County Hospital.

“I love what I do.  I go home and feel like I made a difference.  One cancer patient told me the health care field will be your ministry. She said I have a light about me. I didn’t understand those words then, but I do now. I have a purpose. Good days are ahead.”

About Tri-County Technical College

Tri-County Technical College, a public two-year community and technical college serving Anderson, Oconee and Pickens Counties in South Carolina, enrolls more than 9,000 students annually and offers more than 70 major fields of study, including computer technology, business administration, mechatronics, nursing, and university transfer programs. Tri-County boasts the highest student success rate among two-year colleges in the state and ranks in the top one percent nationally for successful student transfers to four-year colleges and universities. To learn more, visit