FLORISSANT (KMOV.com) - Brandon Gardner was born three months early and diagnosed with a mild form of cerebral palsy and sickle cell disease, which affects red blood cells.
The pain from sickle cell disease can be so severe that Gardner sometimes has to be hospitalized.
“There were times there that I didn’t think I would continue on because I felt like every time I had to suffer a sickle cell pain crisis that sometimes I felt like it was going to kill me," said Brandon.
Brandon's mom Yorvoll says she admires his strength through the hard times.
“Watching him suffer...the pain and everything that he has gone through was sometimes just way too much to bear," said Yorvoll.
Brandon suffered a stoke in 2018 at age 17. He was hospitalized for a month. Therapy helped him build back his strength, but it also meant missing a lot of school. Nurses at the hospital made sure he didn't fall behind.
“They would read some of the assignments and directions," said Brandon. "Whatever I said, they would write it out for me," said Brandon.
With their help, Brandon was able to catch up on his schoolwork and graduate on time with his classmates from Trinity Catholic High School.
On May 17, the graduates received their diplomas at a ceremony held at the Cathedral Basilica.
He says he wants his legacy to be kindness and hopes to serves as an inspiration for others.
“Stay strong, have faith and believe in God because God is right there behind you no matter what you’ve been through in your life," said Brandon.
He was accepted to UMSL and plans to study psychology. Brandon says he wants to help people just like him.