Retiring Calvary Christian School headmaster Len McWilliams said the most memorable moment in his more than 30 years in the education field was the 2012 graduation of Adam Ross.
He told of how when Ross marched across the stage, students began to rise. Faculty followed and soon everyone in the sanctuary was standing.
It was a big moment for Jeannie Ross, as well. She can still hear the people chanting her son's name. "It was such a blessing," she said.
Adam Ross suffers from multiple autoimmune disorders, a condition that occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys healthy body tissue. The causes are unknown. He has other serious health problems, as well.
When he was a Calvary Christian sophomore, at 5-foot-10, Adam weighed 160 pounds. On a good day, Adam, now 21, weighs 90 pounds.
"He is just an amazing young man, so inspiring," McWilliams said. "He has had to fight so much, so many health problems, yet he has always remained positive. It is amazing how strong this family is."
Calvary Christian has recently set up a foundation to help the family pay medical bills that have been piling up since 2009. Donations may be made at Columbus Bank and Trust.
Adam, who has been bedridden for eight weeks, is currently in long-term acute care at Columbus Specialty Hospital. He was transferred there from Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta. He has spent time here at St. Francis Hospital and Midtown Medical Center and has also been to the University of Alabama in Birmingham hospital, the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., and Emory in Atlanta.
"Adam has received amazing, passionate care in Columbus," Ross said.
His liver is enlarged and damaged and he is on dialysis to help with kidney function. He recently had a tracheostomy, a surgically made hole in his throat to help his breathing.
He suffers from aplastic anemia and needs blood transfusions. Ross said she is grateful to those who donate at blood banks.
Adam has two older brothers: Justin and Matthew. His mother and father, Timothy Ross, have owned Precision Optical for 25 years in Columbus.
"It has been a hard five-year journey. What we have gone through could tear some families apart, but it has made us stronger," Jeannie Ross said. "Adam won't give up and neither will we. It is not what happens but how we handle it. Adam's great faith has carried him through this battle for his life."
She said the family puts its trust in God. She mentioned Romans 8:28 in the Bible which says, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."
Ross said friends at both Calvary Christian and Cascade Hills Church have been helpful, and Adam has received special support from his girlfriend, Sarah Gunnels.
After high school graduation, Adam enrolled at Columbus State University to study nursing, but his illness has not allowed him much classroom time.
His mother said that because of his condition he would often fall down. When someone helped him up, Adam would say, "Thanks, how can I pray for you today?" There was always a smile.
Adam suffers from the rare Wilson's disease that causes too much copper to accumulate in the liver and brain. Without treatment, it can be lethal.
He also has been diagnosed with Celiac disease, which is an immune reaction to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. This can damage the lining in the small intestine.
The rare Addison's disease is a disorder that occurs when the body produces insufficient amounts of certain hormones produced by the adrenal glands. The result is muscle weakness, low blood pressure and weight loss.
An acute adrenal failure known as an Addisonian crisis, the symptoms of which may include an abnormal heart rate, abnormally low blood pressure, severe vomiting, diarrhea and pain in the back and legs, can be fatal. Ross said her son has had five of these. He also has survived a heart attack,
"He just keeps fighting," Ross said. "He won't give up."
She said her son believes in the Bible verse James 1:2-4: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."