REIDSVILLE — Kadie Fain wanted to dance at her prom.
She wanted to process down the aisle to those heart-swelling chords of “Pomp and Circumstance.”
She wanted to wear a mortar board and a graduation gown.
Kadie wanted what most high school seniors do: the whole senior year experience.
But, in reality, the 19-year-old Reidsville resident knew her feet would never hit a dance floor, nor would she walk across a stage to receive her diploma.
Born with spina bifida, a congenital condition involving a partially open spine, Kadie is paralyzed from her rib cage down and uses a wheelchair.
So Kadie set her sights on another goal: “I wanted to get my diploma standing up.”
As for the other things, if Kadie wanted a prom, if she wanted a little pomp on her graduation day, her family and friends knew that they could make that happen.
First the prom.
Since Kadie has been home-schooled the past two years, she didn’t have the option of attending her school’s prom.
But her friend Suzi Clabeaux knew you didn’t need classmates to have a prom. You just need a handful of really good friends.
In May, Clabeaux booked a church fellowship hall, made decorations and planned the music.
Kadie shopped for a dress, finding a floor-length turquoise gown.
“It was exactly the dress I’d dreamed about wearing,” Kadie says.
To make it even better, she got a new, hot-pink wheelchair with an elevator mechanism that lowers and raises her in the seat.
That feature made it possible for her to be eye-level with her very handsome date as he rolled her around the dance floor.
With prom checked off the list, that left only graduation to plan.
Kadie’s mother took that on. After all, she was the one who had home-schooled her daughter off and on for much of her education.
Debbie and Forrest Fain, Kadie’s parents, knew what an achievement it was for Kadie to earn the diploma, passing a test that the state offers for home-schooled students.
It’s not that Kadie didn’t excel at school and enjoy being there.
From the time she began preschool, Kadie loved learning and being with other children.
But her health often made it difficult for her to stay on grade level. By age 12, she’d had a dozen surgeries, each time missing school while she recovered. One year she missed 138 days.
Several times, she left public school, opting to be home-schooled.
So in 2007, Kadie was thrilled to start sixth grade at Rockingham County Middle School.
“I built a lot of friends from that,” Kadie says.
But halfway through sixth grade, doctors decided that Kadie needed to have a metal rod inserted into her spine to help her sit upright.
There were complications — even times when Kadie hovered between life and death.
She pulled through, but her journey was never easy.
From 2007 to 2009, Kadie had 35 surgeries — she’s had 47 in all.
Attending school was impossible.
Being in the hospital became commonplace for the Fain family. Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, several birthdays, Halloween — Kadie passed those occasions at Brenner Children’s Hospital in Winston-Salem.
She apologized to her dad when she once was rushed back there on his birthday.
Debbie celebrated her 50th birthday by her daughter’s bedside at Brenner.
Even a family marriage proposal took place at the hospital.
The Fains developed their own surgery ritual. Before each one, they held hands and prayed, always including the same scripture: Isaiah 41:10.
It had become an important verse to them.
In 2007, the night before the spinal rod surgery, Debbie Fain answered a phone call from a tele marketer who was selling a water purification system.
“I’m sorry,” she told the caller, “but my little girl is facing major surgery tomorrow, and I can’t think about water purification right now.”
The caller asked if she could read something to her. It was the scripture from Isaiah.
“God even uses telemarketers,” Debbie Fain says.
She shared it with Kadie the next morning.
“That got me through literally every surgery that I had,” Kadie says.
By 2009, with the surgeries behind her, she started back to school, this time at Rockingham County High.
But a six-hour day in the wheelchair was too much.
She fell behind.
So her mother resorted to home-schooling.
Debbie Fain named the school Aspire School of Discovery, and it was evaluated by the state’s Department of Non-Public Education to determine that it met guidelines.
With no breaks for holidays or summers, Kadie and her mother progressed through the curriculum. When it came to algebra, Kadie’s dad was recruited. Math was Kadie’s toughest subject.
The state required Kadie to take a standardized test at the end of each school year.
In late spring, Debbie Fain administered the last one and mailed it off to be graded.
Kadie passed. She earned her diploma.
And, it was decided that if Kadie, who is a little more than 4 feet tall, wanted to get her diploma standing, her parents would make that happen.
On Saturday, June 7, they did.
Kadie wore a purple cap and gown. “Pomp and Circumstance” played.
And, standing in a device that allows wheelchair-bound people to spend time upright, Kadie was rolled down the aisle of Christian Fellowship Church by two of her nephews, Codey and Christian Yeamon.
There were speakers — preachers, really. Kadie wanted that.
There were prayers.
And, there were very few dry eyes.
When the time came during the ceremony, Kadie was rolled to the front of the church, still in her standing device.
Debbie Fain presented the diploma.
And now it’s official.
Kadie is a member of the Class of 2014.