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Jesse's Story: "Never Give Up"

Do you ever wonder how you're going to tackle the challenges in your life? You may change your outlook when you meet the teenager in this story.

Jesse Wagstaff of Cape Carteret was born with a rare medical condition. His mother was told he may live six months to a year.

Sixteen years later, Jesse wanted to tell his story so you'll see that anything is possible.

Jesse often writes inspirational messages on his Facebook page. Things like, "Life is good," "Laugh when you want to cry," and "Today is a great day."

When you meet this 16-year-old, you realize how truly special those posts and he are.

Jesse says, "I've been through a lot of bad things in my life and I thank God I'm living today."

Jesse was born with Metatrophic Dysplasia, an extremely rare form of dwarfism, with less than 100 known cases.

Jesse has a tracheotomy, is on a ventilator, oxygen and a feeding tube 24 hours a day 7 days a week, and only has the use of his hands. His mom describes the wheelchair, which he just got a couple of months ago, as a mini-mobile ICU. Jesse says it's a big improvement over the one he had that didn't allow him to sit up.

But that has never stopped him from enjoying life... whether it's a trip to the beach, visiting Disney World, attending a major league baseball game, feeding the horses, or heading out to talk about overcoming obstacles.

"One of the main things I like doing in my life is making a difference in people's lives," Jesse says.

It's probably clear by now that Jesse doesn't let his challenges get in the way of doing what he wants. In fact, he attends high school just like any other teenager.

Jesse rides the bus to and from school, and doesn't need any help zipping through the hallways at Croatan High School in Carteret Count.

Friend Jessica McCaw says "He's just really fun to be around. He just brightens up everybody's day. He's just one of those people that can do that."

Teacher Michael Grice says he works hard in all of his classes.

"It's just amazing to see the amount of work and caliber of work he's able to do."

Jesse is also active outside the classroom with school activities. He's been in the school play, has been a manager for the basketball team, and is a member of the group "Kids Against Bullying in Schools."

Victoria Kroll has known Jesse since elementary school. "I have my ups and downs, but to see what his obstacles and everything it makes it look like if he can get through it, I can get through it." McCaw says, "And he is an example for me because just because you have hard times in life doesn't mean you can't overcome them and do things." Grice says, "I think he's an inspiration to the teachers as well as the students."

And Jesse believes inspiring others is part of his purpose.

"Encouraging people not to give up," he says.

While Jesse says he has wondered sometimes why he has this rare condition, he doesn't question it.

"I know it's God's way of making me different because everybody's different."

And Jesse is proving everyday, whatever the challenge, it doesn't have to stop you. That's a spirit he lives by, and in the process, motivates and inspires others along the way.

Jesse has some words of advice: "Keep on trying. Never give up."


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