FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - A South Florida man received a special sendoff after he spent over 20 years receiving medical treatment following his premature birth.

Parker Ming graduated from the Children’s Diagnostic & Treatment Center in Fort Lauderdale after 21 years on Thursday.

The facility’s staff lined the hallways to congratulate Ming, who wore a graduation cap on his way to meet his mother, who then embraced him.

“I know Parker because when I started here at the center, at Children’s Diagnostic & Treatment Center, I was Parker’s social worker when he started in the Early Steps program,” Melissa Bottge White, the center’s Associate Executive Director, said. “That’s the program where children birth to 3 come for developmental delays.”

Ming was born premature, weighing 2 pounds, 2 ounces at birth. His mother, Katie Gadson Aird, had preeclampsia, and doctors were forced to deliver her child early.

Doctors told her that her son would not likely make it.

“They weren’t sure if he’s gonna have his brain intact,” she said. “Make a decision if I want to pull the plug, pull the plug, and I was like, ‘No,’ and thank God because I’d never knew I had this son.”

She made the decision to keep her son and has dedicated her life to making sure he succeeded.

“He was very medically complex, requiring lots of therapy, medical appointments, [physical therapy, occupational therapy], speech, coordinating all those appointments,” White said. “Katie took him to every appointment and stayed on top of it.”

Ming spent 21 years at the center for a myriad of treatments, and he also graduated high school.

“When I hear what they went through and that there was a chance that he might not be with us today based on how sick he was as a baby, I mean, look at him now,” said Kristen Ely, Care Coordinator for the Taft Program. “It’s so incredible how healthy he is and how well he’s doing, and he’s probably one of the happiest, most inspirational youth that you will ever meet.”

Ming and his mother said they are grateful for everyone at the center and the care he has received over the years.

“Thank you for helping me stay healthy,” Ming said. “Thank you for helping me stay well.”

Employees at the center said they are going to miss Ming, and his mother said she looks forward to his next chapter in life. She said her son will be going back to school to continue his progress.

Copyright 2024 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Join our Newsletter for the latest news right to your inbox