YouTube/WTKR News 3
Source: YouTube/WTKR News 3

Virginia Teen Who Battles Deadly Disease Graduates from High School against All Odds

Esther NJeri
Jun 21, 2021
11:10 A.M.
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A teen in Virginia Beach with a deadly and rare disease graduates high school. The family could not hold back their excitement at him achieving the milestone.


Dante Herrera was diagnosed with the Batten Disease back in 2013 by his then pediatrician. The deadly disease attacks one’s nervous system and impairs their ability to hear, talk or even walk.

The odds were very slim, and he was not expected to outlive his childhood, but Herrera has beaten the odds and has gone on to graduate from Salem High School.

High school graduation | Source: Pixabay


The disease is not curable, and those that suffer from the condition do not live beyond their late teen years. Herrera did not let all this hold him back, and he celebrated his 19th birthday this April.

Amidst the tears of joy, his mother, Marlo Dean, says that she has made peace with the fact that her son may never have a normal life, but what matters at this moment is his achievement. The proud mother added saying:

“We have a lot of love, a lot of fun, and we got to graduate!”

Dante with his family after hs graduation |Source: YouTube: WTKRNews


She says she has resolved that many things in her son’s life will not happen as they would under normal circumstances, such as getting married and having children of his own.

He understands that he may never have a chance to live a life like everyone else’s, but at this moment, she wants to celebrate her son’s milestones and achievements.

Smith was given only three to five months to live.

Dante Herrera with his mother during the interview | Source: YouTube/WTKRNews


And he is not alone in this. In New York, yet another teen, Toby Pannone, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma at only three. It had advanced to stage four, and his chances for survival were slim.

Toby remembers being very anxious about returning to class after a year-long stay at the hospital, but he did not give up on his treatment and studies, and a decade and now he gets to graduate high school. Speaking to New York Daily News, he says:

“It’s sort of this really symbolic thing, it’s a symbol that I have made it despite everything that’s happened so far.”

Dante Herrera is all smiles after he graduates high schools| Source: YouTube/WTKRNews


In the recent past, people with terminal illnesses are getting a less slim chance at life and are reaching milestones they would never have in the past. Such a person is a high school senior who got to wed his girlfriend.

Chase Smith, 19, was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma in 2014. The condition is a rare cancer of the bones, and Smith was given only three to five months to live.

Dante Herrera with his mother at their Virginia home | Source: YouTube/WTKRNews


Smith met his girlfriend Sadie Mills in a swim meet, and they formed an instant bond. They have been inseparable since. The two married in a small ceremony attended only by the closest of their families.

The ceremony was held in Bargersville, Indiana. The couple was planning to marry after they had completed their college education, but they had to move it up to this April due to his illness.


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