Florida student fighting for life since birth benefits from education choice scholarship for children with unique abilities

Peyton Williams was born with a heart defect that weakened her immune system. She is on the autism spectrum, has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder, and has “false vocal cords,” which means she can speak barely above a whisper.

OKEECHOBEE – Peyton Williams entered this world with a damaged heart, a damaged airway and hardly any hope from doctors who examined her the day she was born. They told her mother her baby wouldn’t survive her first 24 hours. Then she was told Peyton wouldn’t live to her first birthday.

Peyton celebrated her 12th birthday two days before Christmas.

She has scars on her chest from three open heart surgeries, the first when she was six days old, but no visible marks on her throat from the nine years she wore a tracheal tube. Her mom, Le-Ann Williams, said Peyton has endured 98 surgeries and spent more than half her life in hospitals.

“She’s a walking miracle,” Le-Ann said.

Doctors said Peyton wouldn’t walk or talk or run. Peyton does all those things, and she also swims, fishes, camps, cooks, plays the violin, and makes her own videos that she posts on YouTube.

“She has overcome everything they told us she wouldn’t overcome,” Le-Ann said.

It wouldn’t have been possible without some help from Florida’s Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities (FES-UA) managed by Step Up For Students.

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BY Roger Mooney

Roger Mooney is the marketing communications manager for Step Up For Students. He joined the organization after a career as a sports and features writer for several Florida newspapers, including the Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times.