Boy Told He Wouldn’t Live to Be a Teenager Graduates From High School

Elise Solé
Khye Jessup, who has a rare genetic disorder with a short life expectancy, at graduation. (Photo: Shelley Mason)

A boy who doctors estimated would live only until the age of 8 just graduated from high school.

Khye Jessup, a 20-year-old in Greensboro, N.C., was born with Hunter syndrome, a rare genetic disorder marked by a missing enzyme that causes cognitive and physical regression during the toddler years. “I suspected something was wrong when Khye was 6 months old — he looked a little different than the other kids — but doctors kept assuring me he was fine,” Khye’s mom, Shelley Mason, 42, a public health nurse, tells Yahoo Beauty.

The syndrome caused Khye to develop a large head and abdomen, a flat nose bridge, a short neck, and thick hands, among other characteristics. Khye was also slow to crawl and walk, but because he always mastered each skill on the tail end of the expected range, he wasn’t considered delayed. But when he was 18 months old, his mom took him to a geneticist who “diagnosed him upon sight.”

Shelley Mason and her son Khye Jessup. (Photo: Shelley Mason)

Despite his limitations, Mason was determined to keep her son as active as possible, enrolling him in a typical school that held special-needs classes with personal aides, who assisted with academic and art lessons. Sports were also nonnegotiable — Khye plays on special-needs basketball and baseball teams. “He needs help rounding the plate, but he does it,” says Mason. In the spring, Khye attended his senior prom with a date, his childhood friend.

Khye can’t walk without assistance, and he’s nonverbal and requires a feeding tube. Still, he completed four years of high school, and on June 9, he made it across the stage of Ragsdale High School in Greensboro, wearing a cap and gown to receive his diploma. “I don’t know how much Khye understands, but I think he knew the moment was for him,” says Mason. “He was very alert.”

Khye’s graduation party. (Photo: Shelley Mason)

After the ceremony, Khye and Mason headed to the Glenwood Recreation Center for “Khye’s Carnival,” an event thrown by a childhood friend of Mason’s who volunteered her services after Mason jokingly wrote on Facebook, “Who wants to throw Khye a graduation party?”

The room was decorated like a carnival with stations for face painting and crafts. A DJ played live music, and a professional photographer snapped pics.

“I’m overjoyed and relieved that Khye graduated,” says Mason. “It’s hard to express in words. I just feel blessed.”

As for his post-school plans, Mason says, they’ll take it one day at a time. “All I know,” she says, “is that Khye won’t be sitting around.”

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