MOORHEAD — When Moorhead High School Student Carson Kitch walks across the stage to get his high school diploma this June, it will be an accomplishment that far outweighs any game stat or grade point average.

Eighteen years ago, his parents were not sure he would live to see his first birthday. Now he is getting ready for college. But not before one simple photo for graduation inspired many across social media.

Sitting with his parents for an interview, Kitch was relaxed, dressed in a suit. With just a week or two left of school and high school graduation in June, the 18-year-old soon-to-be college student is living a good life.

Those coming to his Moorhead High School graduation probably don't have to be reminded how far Kitch has traveled in life.

In 2001, at just 8 months old, he was faced with a deadly liver disease that could only be treated with an organ transplant.

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His parents weren't sure he was going to make it.

"(We discussed) what songs we wanted at his funeral, who should talk, what would we say," his mother, Rhonda Kay Kitch, recalled.

"We knew we were going home. It was either with him or without him, it came down to that," his father, Travis Kitch, said. "When he was at the hospital, I was taking the night shift. He had several roommates who were so sick and so many did not make it. And our only thoughts were: are we next? But he kept winning every battle."

After open heart surgeries, a liver transplant and cochlear implants, Kitch is a Moorhead Spud who never wavered due to adversity. He's a percussionist with the high school band and a much loved and respected worker at Cash Wise, where he will continue to work when he attends Minnesota State University Moorhead this fall.

"That transformation, that grit is phenomenal. That is what got him where he is today . . . (I'm) so proud of what he has done," his mother said.

With graduation close, pictures were needed. With the help of a professional photographer, Kitch had his picture taken in his graduation regalia; gown open to show his scars from the procedures he endured that allowed him to be here today.

The photo was not originally intended to be shared with anyone but family members, but Kitch wanted to share it.

"All the battles I have gone through — they say every scar has a story — and I have 14 scars on my chest . . . I look at every single one of them, and I think, that is what I have gone through. I can keep going," Kitch said. "I think of all the other kids who did not survive."

On his cap, a thank you to the donor family, whose loss and decision to donate allowed him to live.

And it should come as no surprise — Kitch plans on studying to become a nurse.

"If I did not do anything in life, how would I honor my donor?" he said.