Posted at: 02/10/2013 3:49 PM
Updated at: 02/10/2013 10:46 PM
By: James Wilcox
(ABC 6 News) -- Caroline Adams walks through the halls of Rochester Community and Technical College with confidence.
"I could tell that people avoided me a little bit. Nobody wanted to talk to me I guess. I was kind of a loner," says Caroline Adams.
Becky Martin, Caroline’s counselor at Triton High School, remembers Caroline as somebody who was shy, but also as somebody who stood out.
"Very responsible, even from a young age coming through high school, which is not terribly typical of freshman," says Becky Martin.
Caroline was so responsible and so dedicated, she left Triton after tenth grade to go post-secondary. She’s spent the last year-and-a-half taking college courses at RCTC.
"Honestly post-secondary doesn't work for every student and some students are completely overwhelmed when they get there, but I think she went in with the drive and determination and responsibility to do things on her own," says Becky Martin.
James Adams says, "Well she cares about us. We're kind of slow ourselves I guess you could say. She's been very good with us."
James and Melissa Adams are Caroline’s parents.
"She's been there practically ever since she could. She's been at my surgeries. She's been taking me to my appointments when she can," says Melissa Adams.
Both James and Melissa have physical and mental disabilities and other health problems. For Caroline’s dad it is his heart.
James Adams says, "I begged for a transplant one time, but they said I wasn't eligible for that.”
And for Caroline’s mom, things have consistently gotten worse.
"Back in 2009 she had a stroke, suffered a stroke and a bleed on the brain which made her even more disabled," says James Adams.
"My neurologist said he might be putting me through another surgery. If I made it through nine head surgeries, I sure can make it through another one," says Melissa Adams.
Surgeries that leave Melissa in pain, and as Caroline learned, can bring out cruelty in kids.
"My mom had gotten out of the car and her head was shaved and it had all those big stitches because she had just gotten her surgery and there was a couple kids outside. They literally laughed and pointed. I had never seen that before,” says Caroline.
Caroline learned to live with the taunts and live without things many other kids take for granted. With her family on disability they never had much money. Caroline wasn’t in sports and didn’t wear name brand clothes. Her focus as a child was taking care of her parents.
James Adams says, "Kind of like mothers us."
Caroline adds, "My dad used to call me his little nurse. A lot of days I would have to hurry home because my mom or dad had a doctor appointment and I had to come home because I'd have to go with them."
Melissa Adams says, "I wouldn't understand the appointments that I have to go to so she would help me with what I would have to understand."
Those appointments were just a small part of Caroline’s responsibilities. At home she’s the cook, and she also cleans up.
Caroline says, "Dad doesn't have a good back and neither does my mom so even standing up doing dishes a long time. We don't have a dishwasher, we never have.”
They weren’t just chores, but serious responsibilities Caroline’s parents depend on her for.
"I think sometimes that's been a tough thing for her. She's had to grow up sooner than other kids." Says James Adams.
Something Caroline struggled with when she was younger, but that didn’t last long.
Caroline says, “I'm immensely proud of both of them. I know they're proud of me, but I have no idea how they even got through all the things that they've had to do."
Caroline is now 17, and preparing to finish her senior year of high school while also wrapping up her second year of college. She is no longer the shy, timid girl who once walked the halls of Triton.
Becky Martin says, "She's done so much on her own already at such a young age that I just really believe that she has the drive and determination. I kind of think the sky is the limit for her."
Caroline will attend Winona State University in the fall majoring in nursing.
"I'm really excited, but I'm nervous though," says Caroline.
She’s not nervous about meeting new people or getting good grades, this teenager is worried about something most others are not. Her parents.
James Adams says, "She has promised that she's going to watch out over us and take care of us.”
Caroline says, "What I really want to do is build them a house on my property. They can have a maid and they wouldn’t have to do anything at all.”
She’s a teenage girl who has already given so much and still wants to give more. She doesn’t have resentment or anger, only love for the two people she is honored to call her parents.
Caroline says, “I’m glad they are my parents because they helped make me the person I am today, and I like the person that I am thanks to them.”