Graduate Honored After Losing Battle With Rare Blood Disease

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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) -- About 70 students from the Lighthouse Academy in Warren County walked across the stage at Diddle Arena on Saturday afternoon recognizing years of their hard work.

However, one graduate was only able to be there in spirit.

Ginny Gipson spent her life battling a rare blood disease.

Just 18 years old, she passed away in April due to complications from a bone marrow transplant.

She dreamed of walking in the graduation ceremony, and while that didn't get to happen, she still was honored in a special way.

"I can just picture her sitting down in these chairs and smiling up at us and fidgeting with her little feet -- just happy to be here. That was so important to her," said Lisa Vaughn, Ginny's mom.

Each walked in the ceremony, receiving a diploma -- which was Ginny's goal.

"She made sure she got all her credits in -- enough to graduate by December. She even spoke with all the doctors at Vanderbilt and Saint Jude when we went there to make sure that with the bone marrow transplant she'd be tentatively out and able to come," Vaughn said.

However, complications from that transplant kept her from celebrating her success.

"She was one in 400 people to have the MYH9 mutation documented cases in the world. She was the first to try the bone marrow transplant to see if it could possibly be a cure. In Ginny's words she said, 'If I don't make it, at least maybe it'll help the doctors to help the other 399 patients in the world," Vaughn said.

While she wasn't physically at the ceremony, she was still honored for working hard and getting good grades despite her physical setbacks -- which often caused her to miss class.

Classmates remembered her during a moment of silence at the ceremony.

"It was pretty sad when they said her name. I almost started crying," said Amanda Cross, a friend of Ginny's.

Superintendent Rob Clayton walked Ginny's diploma down to her mom -- an emotional moment that she said, in spirit, Ginny's dream finally came true.

"I just know that she's here with us and this is exactly what she wants. She's in a much better place and she's happy," said Sarahi Rivas, another one of Ginny's friends.

Vaughn said Ginny was accepted into both Western Kentucky University and the University of Kentucky.

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