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'She's a hero': From illness to graduation, soon-to-be UK grad beats the odds

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Posted at 6:00 PM, May 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-04 18:30:35-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — What started as pain in Devon Penn's left leg quickly turned into a nightmare. She was in class at the University of Kentucky in early 2020 when she lost all feeling in that leg.

"I was freaking out a little bit, I was like full-on sweating," said Penn.

She was taken to the hospital and rushed into surgery where doctors removed a clot more than two inches big.

Penn said they later discovered she had clots all throughout her body and one of her heart valves was severely damaged. An infection in her heart was to blame and surgery was the answer. But it would be very risky.

"The things that the doctors told us were horrific," Devon's best friend Serena Bennett recalled. "They basically told us she had no shot."

"It was a complete shock sitting in there listening to the doctors tell us that," Devon's mother, Mary Penn, said. "We were blown away that it was that bad and that serious."

It was something no parent should ever go through. But they held onto hope and leaned on their faith.

Soon, they learned Devon survived the surgery. She also managed to recover and finish school on time. She did take off a semester to recover, but she hustled to make up the credits she missed by taking summer and winter classes. On Saturday, she's graduating with her class.

"Everybody will be like that's crazy you should not be graduating," Devon said. "I'm like I don't know how I did it but I did it!"

She's also signed a lease on a townhome with Bennett and they're preparing to become roommates.

"We're both really excited about it," Bennett said.

Devon—now fearless—said she's not wasting her second chance at life.

"I was so apprehensive before to do anything but now I'm like bring it on like I don't care, let's do it," she said.

"She's a hero," Devon's father, Brad Penn, said.

"She's just so strong," Mary said. "We've always known she was very strong."

For the UK Class of 2022 Commencement schedule, click here.