For most young people, earning a high school diploma is a highlight of their first 18 years. For Taylor Carter, it wasn’t even the biggest event in her life in the past 18 months.
Taylor Carter was born more than four months early; as a result, she had damaged intestines and had most removed soon after birth.
Originally from Cincinnati, Taylor’s family moved to Florida when she was in the second grade. As she grew, she had increasing difficulty. Finally, after an unsuccessful surgery at age 16, her doctor recommended a move to a city with more appropriate medical facilities. “Boston, Philadelphia, and Cincinnati were the top recommendations,” said Taylor’s mother. “So, we came back home to Ohio.”
At Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Taylor became a candidate for an intestinal transplant, and the operation was performed in April 2018.
Just months after receiving a very rare intestinal transplant, Taylor decided it was time to complete high school. Her health issues had kept her out of school for nearly two years, and she felt ready to finish. A Children’s Hospital employee recommended the Aspire high school equivalency (HSE) program at Great Oaks. Taylor began in the summer of 2018. “Taylor was shy and anxious in the beginning, but started to fit in quickly,” said instructor Katie Travers. “She soon became confident, strong and outgoing. It was like watching a flower blossom to watch her.”
Taylor has a simple explanation for the change. “Once I started attending, I realized that it’s not bad—I can do this!”
But the classroom experience wasn’t destined to last long. A bout of norovirus, which typically lasts a day or two for most people, kept Taylor down from October through May. It also interrupted her high school equivalency classes. Fortunately, Travers found a way to keep Taylor’s studies going. “I got permission for Taylor to keep studying at home, and developed a distance learning curriculum,” she said. As Taylor completed online classes, the two kept in touch by phone, email, and occasional face-to-face meetings.
Despite the ongoing recovery from her transplant and from her illness, Taylor continued to work on school work. “I had the mindset of ‘I want to keep going. I want to get it done’” she said. In fact, her mother said that it was difficult to get her to stop studying. “We had a party for the one-year anniversary of her transplant,” said Heather. “But Taylor spent the day taking HSE practice tests.”
Taylor smiled at the recollection. “I was determined to pass the tests.”
And she did pass, making up nearly two years of school in just months—after becoming the first patient in Cincinnati to survive an intestinal transplant and while dealing with a seven-month-long virus. And now? “I’m doing great,” said Taylor.
Although the graduation ceremony isn’t until July 11, Taylor is already thinking farther into the future. She will head back to school this fall to begin studying nursing, with the ultimate goal of becoming a transplant coordinator. “I always wanted to help people,” she said.
There’s little doubt that Taylor Carter will continue to succeed. As her father, John, summed it up: “She came, she saw, she conquered.”