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For Stacey, a graduation walk to remember

She was too weak to walk across the makeshift stage, too sick to get close to her friends.

But Wednesday night, Stacey Karavokiros rolled out of All-Children’s Hospital, rode with her mom to Tarpon Springs High, climbed into a golf cart, drove across the football field and graduated with her class.

"She knows she still needs to be in the hospital," said her mother, Irene Karavokiros. "But she so much wanted to get her diploma. So I guess it’s good enough that she was able to go, even if it was only for three hours."

Stacey, 17, has been in the hospital for more than a month -- ever since her body started rejecting her heart. She had her first transplant when she was 12, another in 2005. She takes 12 different pills, twice a day, to help her body keep the heart.

Doctors don’t know why her body is rejecting this heart now. And no one is talking about another heart transplant -- yet. They had hoped to release Stacey from the hospital in time for her to wear a custom red dress to the prom. But when she wasn’t well enough for that, her friends put on an impromptu prom in a conference room at All-Children’s.

On Wednesday, doctors told Stacey she wasn’t well enough to go home. But they granted her a special pass so she could go to graduation, then come back to the hospital that night. The only caveat: She had to wear a surgical mask to protect her from any germs. Just before the ceremony, her friends gave her a paper mask rimmed with rhinestones.

"Even though I'm not done yet, and I can't go home, just looking at my friends and family from across the field will be such a boost," Stacey said shortly before donning her cap and gown. "I know it will give me strength, which is what I need to get better."

For Stacey, a graduation walk to remember 06/04/08 [Last modified: Saturday, June 7, 2008 8:09am]
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