'I just didn't think my baby was going to make it'

BURIEN, Wash. -- Tuesday marked a huge milestone for a high school senior from Burien, and it was one many feared she wouldn't reach.

You didn't have a heart if you weren't cheering or crying Tuesday when Mechele Smith stood with her class at Highline's Big Picture High School. And it's Smith's heart that made her scared she wouldn't live to see the ceremony.

Smith's heart failed her during senior year and the hospital became her home. She needed surgery at the University of Washington Medical Center to survive.

She received a left ventricular assist device, which is basically an artificial heart that pumps blood and does the work her heart couldn't.

On Tuesday, Smith's mom, Sharon, flat ironed her daughter's hair for the big day both feared they wouldn't see.

"I just didn't think my baby was going to make it," Sharon said. "I just didn't."

The senior with perfect attendance missed five months of classes and felt like giving up.

"I was tired of all the IVs and all the tubes and all that, that I didn't want to do it no more," Smith said.

She snapped out of her funk by doing homework in her hospital bed.

"I really wanted to graduate high school alive and not dead," she said.

Carrying her heart device and wearing her cap and gown, Smith crossed the school stage and received the only standing ovation of the ceremony.

And beaming in the crowd was her family, both from home and the hospital. The nursing team and surgeon wouldn't miss her big moment.

"It's a big deal, a huge deal. I worked hard to get this," Smith said. "I didn't think that I was going to graduate, I didn't think that I was going to see my class."

On Tuesday, the student with the bad heart moved more hearts than she knows.