PALESTINE — Commencement marks an exciting time for any high school student, but for Elkhart senior LeAnn McKinney, the moment will mean even more — considering doctors said she'd never make it there.
When LeAnn was five months old, she was diagnosed with cystic encephamalicia, a rare condition affecting 1 in 10,000 people.
“She had a blood vessel that was too small in the brain when she was developing,” her mother Karen told the Herald-Press. “Basically, she had a massive stroke inside the womb when I was pregnant, and we were told when she was diagnosed to basically go home and make all the arrangements.”
LeAnn has a working brain stem, Karen explained, but no cognitive brain — “the part of your brain, which is your cerebrum, that tells you what you hear, what you see, what you think,” she said. “They told us she would never know who we were, she wouldn't know anything going on around her.”
Well it must be a “a God thing,” her mother added — “because she does.”
While her daughter's condition spawned a number of health related issues — 15 other diagnosis, to be exact, including arthritis, scoliosis, legal blindness and deafness — the McKinney family decided they would raise little LeAnn to live as normal a life as possible.
“Our goal was when we got started with her, life will be normal,” she said, noting her husband Richard's support as well. “She has not done without because of her disability. We had older children, and they needed to be able to have sleepovers and, you know, their events.”
So LeAnn did the same, whatever she could, “as the other kids,” Karen said. She went to her sisters's volleyball games, band concerts and other events. She joined the fun on family vacations, including a trip to Walt Disney World. She even was a member of Girl Scouts, where she participated with camping events and cookie sales.