BURLINGTON, N.C. (WGHP) — For years, FOX8 and many of you at home have been following the story of a young boy named Alj.
He was diagnosed with a heart condition at four months old. Seven years ago, he received a lifesaving heart transplant. Now, he is healthy and about to turn 21 years old.
His mom has cared for him all these years and now she is about to hit a milestone of her own.
“It’s my turn to see what I can see. I hope you’ll understand this time is just for me because it’s my turn,” said Tina Tuner, Alj’s mom. “That is my motto. That is my song.”
On Thursday, 55-year-old Tina donned her cap and gown and was about to get her associate degree at GTCC. It was a day she has waited on for decades and a day she and Alj thought would never come.
“I’m so happy just to achieve something. This has been a long life journey for me to finish school because I am the only one in my immediate family to graduate high school and college, so this is a milestone for me,” Tina said.
She started this journey about 20 years ago. When Alj was diagnosed with heart disease in 2002, her hopes and dreams were put on hold.
“After he got his heart transplant seven years ago, I decided to take two classes every semester just to try to finish because I had other credits to go…and it was hard because I was busy still caring for him post-transplant and going to school and working full time,” she said.
Having a diploma is not the end. Tina plans to get her nursing degree.
“She is here for the title of nurse, and I feel like this whole time she has already been more than a nurse. She’s a hero,” Alj said.
She’s superwoman to her son, who wants her to have the spotlight.
“It’s finally her moment. It’s her day,” he said. “My mom has sacrificed so much just for my well-being.”
It all paid off. Alj is healthy, and she is happy.
“He is here and alive to see me graduate, and it means the world to me,” Tina said.
Alj’s heart is beating strong, and Tina’s heart beats for her son.
“We still have things to do as far as his health and just be there for each other,” she said.
These days, the two spend less time in the hospital and more time on adventures.
“We do incorporate getting him away because…he wasn’t able to travel a lot,” Tina said.
“I love sunsets. That is one thing I love about the beach and seeing the sunset,” Alj said.
They have a trip to Puerto Rico planned next month to celebrate Alj’s birthday on May 31.
“I can’t believe it,” she said. “Watch out world.
At home in Burlington, Alj loves spending time on the computer that he built himself. He’s also pursuing a degree in IT.
“I want to build computers for a living,” Alj said.
Until then, Tina is just enjoying every minute with her miracle.
“Life is good. No chaos,” she said.
Tina and her son are so thankful for the community support all this time. They hope their story reminds people to never give up no matter how tough life gets.