Durham, N.C. — Teachers and staff at the Duke University Hospital School kept Courtney Montgomery on track for a milestone – her high school diploma – even as she recovered from heart transplant surgery. On Friday, they even made sure she got her own graduation ceremony.
Two years ago, Courtney got a donor heart at Duke. She was ready for a happy ending after years of worry. Instead, she suffered several bouts of organ rejection.
In November, she had her worst scare yet. "She went into cardiac arrest during a biopsy procedure and ended up on life support for three weeks," said her mother, Michelle Mescall. "She beat unbelievable odds."
During Courtney's recovery, she worked hard to keep up with her classmates back home, even if she couldn't graduate with them.
As class president and valedictorian in her class of one, Courtney spoke Friday about other transplant patients and families she's grown close to.
"It's taught me about supporting others and offering help to those in need," she said.
Hospital president Kevin Sowers delivered the keynote. "You know it's not often that I get to speak to a graduate class of one," he said.
Courtney's cardiologist also spoke.
"Courtney has overcome more than her fair share of adversity in her young life and has become an inspiration to us all," said Dr. Michael Carboni.
With diploma in hand, Courtney's goal is to enjoy life and stay healthy.
"I feel like my heart is strong," she said. "I feel like my body is strong, and I feel like I can only go up from here."
The Duke Hospital School supports students of all ages while they are away from their home school for medical treatment and recovery. They work in association with the Durham Public School System and served 223 students this school year.