Grundy County teen battles rare disease, looks to the future - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Grundy County teen battles rare disease, looks to the future

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GRUNDY COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -- Classes are ending and finals will soon be over. For many seniors, all that's left to do is walk across the stage and receive their diploma.

However, this graduation has a very special meaning for a Grundy County teenager.
Nikki Wiley is essentially living on borrowed time. And after taking some time to get to know her, it's clear none of that bothers her. Doctors told her she had three years to live nine years ago. Now she's one week away from graduating high school.

"I can't wait for graduation night when I can walk across the stage and I can say I did it," Nikki said.

More than ten neurosurgeons said Nikki wouldn't live past 14. She was diagnosed with Niemann-Pick disease, a rare disorder that deteriorates the mind and the body over a short time.

Nine years later, she will walk across the stage at Grundy County High School.

"We have seen milestones come and go that they said would never come. The day she graduated eighth grade was amazing. We were scared to death about high school," said Nikki's mother Lanette Fults.

Nikki quickly showed mom there wasn't reason to worry. She put on her patented smile, and won the high school over.

"They treat her like any other teenager in the school. They look out for her they take care of her," said Lanette.

Take away the fact that Nikki defies the odds by just being there, she is just like any other student. Her aide Donna Caldwell says everyone has fallen in love with Nikki, including her, "I feel like she's done more for me than I could have ever done for her."

"She has touched so many people in so many different ways. Ways they may not even understand yet," Lanette said.

Her doctor who has seen a lot says this kind of progress is almost unheard of.

Her grandmother Janet Jacobs says it's her faith in God, and the will to carry on. "You never see her down, she doesn't cry, she doesn't complain. She's happy, she enjoys being part of the world. That's who she is."

And Nikki's far from done. Her goal is to study nursing at Tennessee Wesleyan.

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