RAYMORE, Mo. -- A night that should have been filled with celebration took a devastating turn for one Raymore family. An aspiring nurse, a wife and mother of three died minutes after graduating from nursing school.
Jessica and Danny White took out loans so Danny could stay at home with their three boys as Jessica pursued her dream of becoming a nurse. After her graduation ceremony Thursday night, she tragically fell to her death.
"All of a sudden, this catastrophe hits," said Danny.
He and their three sons were celebrating her pinning ceremony for the National American University nursing school, which Jessica herself organized. After 18 months, she was finally getting her associate's degree in nursing.
"She was talking to me, and she said, 'I just feel like I have something stuck in my throat that I can't cough up,'...and then she just fell over," said Deborah Wren, Jessica's classmate.
After the ceremony she and other classmates left the auditorium to wait for family and friends to come out. That's when Jessica collapsed.
"We all jumped in to kind of see what was going on. Obviously, we're all trained nurses now," said Hailey Farra, another classmate, who is still stunned by how quickly everything happened.
"You just feel so helpless, when it's somebody that you love so much," Farra said.
Jessica's husband says she had Marfan syndrome - a genetic disorder that affects the body's connective tissue.
"It's just a thinning of the muscular tissue and vascular tissue, and it caused a little heart murmur. We don't know exactly what caused her to collapse," Danny added.
He rode in the ambulance with his wife to the hospital where she passed away.
"You've got 1,000 different emotions going through your head, and then my first instinct was to go to my boys and make sure that they're taken care of," he said.
The Whites took out loans to put Jessica through nursing school so she could be the breadwinner while Danny took care of their children. Now they are out of that money, but most importantly-- a beloved wife and mother.
"Keep on living, one day at a time, that's all I can do, until I figure everything out," said Danny, "I've just gotta go on living from there."
Donations to Jessica White Memorial Fund c/o of her sons 12, 9, 8:
The coroner will perform an autopsy to learn more about exactly why Jessica died.
In the meantime, her family and friends are planning a ceremony to release butterflies-- Jessica loved them so much.