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Illness Did Not Keep Fifth-Grader From Graduating

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Fifth-grader Asher McGirt got sick at the start of Christmas break. A rare disease has kept him in the hospital for the past six months. He still managed to finish his school work and those close to him made sure he got the ceremony he deserved.

In late December, a viral infection led to Asher's being diagnosed with Stevens Johnson Syndrome. It is an allergic type of reaction that affects the mucous membrane inside the body, including the lungs. Asher needed a respirator to help him breathe, and then a blistering rash covered his skin.

"The rash can progress to such a severe degree, it's almost like a burn over the entire body," said Dr. Patrick O'Brien, of WakeMed.

Asher even spent time at the Jaycee Burn Center in Chapel Hill. On the day of the actual graduation, a friend stood in Asher's place for Poe Elementary's fifth-grade Bridge Crossing. But 24 hours earlier, they brought the ceremony to him.

Asher has crossed more than just an academic bridge. He has several hours of physical, occupational and speech therapy every day. He is also on the bridge to recovery.

"He's been really determined. He's been wonderful. He always seems to do more than his therapists expect him to do," said Janet McGirt, Asher's mother.

"It's very meaningful to him. He was very concerned about passing his grade and end of grade tests," said Jonathan McGirt, Asher's father.

Asher's parents hope the show of love and support may continue to drive his recovery.

"I never thought there would be that much support for one person, and I guess I should now better now," Janet said.

Asher did not miss his school's official bridge crossing ceremony after all. Health Team producer/photographer Rick Armstrong recorded the entire event so Asher could watch it in his hospital room.


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