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Emory University Hospital and Columbus State University hold graduation ceremony for patient waiting on heart transplant
Media Contact
Janet Christenbury
Emory Healthcare Media Relations

ATLANTA – A 24-year-old patient waiting on a heart transplant donned his cap and gown for a special graduation ceremony at Emory University Hospital, after missing his college graduation.

Grant Martin was supposed to graduate from Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia, in early May, but was hospitalized instead. Born with a congenital heart defect called corrected transposition of the greater arteries, Martin first had heart surgery at age five and has been able to live a normal life until recently. In February of this year, his heart function began to decline.

A regular check-up with his cardiologist proved his condition was worsening and he would need a heart transplant, Martin explains. In April, just weeks away from college graduation at Columbus State where he was studying to become a teacher, he was admitted to Emory University Hospital and placed on the heart transplant waitlist.

“I was student teaching and had only three weeks left and was hoping not to go into the hospital until that was completed,” says Martin. “So I initially forfeited the semester to prioritize my health, and I thought I was not going to graduate.”

When Columbus State University officials learned about Martin’s plight, they began discussing how he could still graduate. Determining he met the majority of the requirements for graduation, they came up with a plan.

“This is a student who has gone through a lot in his lifetime,” says Stuart Rayfield, PhD, Columbus State University president. “When we heard about this situation, we thought we should bring the stage to him.” 

Martin graduation

Columbus State University’s Annice Yarber-Allen, PhD, dean of the College of Letters and Science, shares a message with Martin during the graduation ceremony.

Greta High, Emory Healthcare Marketing

On May 25, a graduation ceremony was held for Martin at Emory University Hospital with Rayfield and two Columbus State University deans, as Martin’s family, friends and care team members proudly watched. A violist played “Pomp and Circumstance” as Martin walked down the aisle of a decorated hospital conference room, following behind the Columbus State University officials dressed in full academic regalia.

“To be able to get my degree and graduate, having thought I had lost that, was an absolute high I cannot describe,” says Martin. “I’m incredibly thankful. I was just happy enough to get my degree, then to have the ceremony here on top of it elevated everything.”

Grant with CSU officials

Columbus State University officials pose with Martin after the ceremony: (L-R) Margie Yates, PhD, dean of the College of Education and Health Professions; Grant Martin; Stuart Rayfield, PhD, president of Columbus State University; and Annice Yarber-Allen, PhD, dean of the College of Letters and Science.

Greta High, Emory Healthcare Marketing

Martin learned he would graduate just a few weeks earlier when Columbus State University officials notified him that they would like to come to Emory University Hospital to confer his degree.

“It was a privilege to be able to recognize this important milestone for Grant and celebrate his achievements,” says Catherine Maloney, chief operating officer of Emory University Hospital. “Having Columbus State University work with us to send representatives to the hospital for a full graduation ceremony, made the event even more special.”

Martin will remain in the hospital until he receives his heart transplant.

“Now I just have to wait for my transplant,” says Martin. “Then after I’m out, I can actually go do what I feel like I am supposed to do, which is teach high school students.”

Grant and parents

It’s all smiles as Grant Martin proudly displays his diploma, with parents Amy and Phil Martin.

Greta High, Emory Healthcare Marketing

Congratulations to Grant Martin for graduating with his Bachelor of Arts in English with a Secondary Education Track from Columbus State University. 

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