Teen with rare disease joins graduating class on stage, crowd cheers with happy tears

Teen with rare disease joins graduating class on stage, crowd cheers with happy tears

By Kristelle Bechayda

In Hattiesburg, Mississippi, a heartwarming graduation ceremony took place as the graduating class of Petal High paid homage to a 17-year-old student with a rare sickness.

Jacoby Bergeron has Batten disease, a fatal type of disorder that damages the brain and nervous system. The teen spends most of his days in a wheelchair.

A heartwarming graduation walk

With the assistance of his therapist, special education teacher and classroom coach, Jacoby was able to walk across the stage with the graduating high school seniors.

The 17-year-old, who has a mental capacity of a 12 to 18-month old, is still a junior. He will continue his special education classes at the school until he is 21, or until after he completes his classes.

Jacoby’s mother, Dixie, knew this was the year for her son to participate in the ceremony because his health and mental alertness have been declining.

“It’s a brain disease that he has,” she explained. “His brain is not telling his body all the things it’s supposed to do.”

Luckily, the Petal High school officials agreed that the teenage boy should participate. And everyone stood on their feet, clapping, when it was Jacoby’s turn to walk across the stage!

“His whole graduating class stood up,” Dixie recalled. “It was a moment I’ll never forget. He understood people were clapping for him. He understood people were celebrating him.”

Living in the moment with her son

Jacoby was about four or five years old when he started showing the symptoms of Batten disease, but didn’t get an official diagnosis until last 2015.

The teenage boy had to go through many doctors and undergo multiple medical tests before it was discovered that he had the late infantile form of the disease, which includes loss of muscle tone and coordination, seizures, speech and motor skill problems that would get worse over time.

For now, his mother takes life one minute at a time and appreciates every moment she has with Jacoby.

“If he can get up every day and smile and put a smile on your face — I think that’s something he’ll be remembered for,” Dixie said.

Story from Associated Press.