(WBIR-SEVIERVILLE) Over the years, Laura West and her husband John fostered 103 kids, all of them medically fragile. Phone calls to help kids in need were nothing new.
"We got a call for her, she was born blind addicted to heroin. She was 15 months old and had been scalded in a tub of hot water from the neck down while in the care of her birth mother," she remembered.
So they went to Shriners Hospital in Cincinnati to meet Maleka.
"We were not supposed to bring her home as foster parents. We were supposed to take her back to the hospice house where she was going to pass away. The doctor said she had a 5% chance of living. And me and her just really bonded," she said.
They took her home instead.
"We thought we were taking her home literally as a foster child who was going to pass away within a few weeks, that's what we thought. And when we got her home she started getting better and getting better," she said.
A lot better. Maleka became part of their family.
"Before we knew it five years had gone by and we said let's just make it final and we adopted her, she said.
Now Maleka West is 20 years old and she is about to graduate from Sevier County High School. She likes to travel and read and sing.
Laura wrote a book about her daughter's journey: "Blind, Burned and Living Against All Odds."
She reproduced it in Braille.
Maleka reads about her early life with her family.
"That was the first time Maleka and I had parted since the day I met her," she read aloud. "She was in a class with just three other students and they all had special needs as well."
Laura has a special ministry as a Christian comedian and speaker. Maleka is her mom's inspiration.
"What's so amazing about Maleka is her outlook on life. You know, Maleka sees far more that we do with our eyes. Maleka sees with her heart," she said. "I don't think she even knows the impact she makes on people when she gets up and sings but she has definitely impacted a lot of people over the years."
After graduation this month they are looking forward to traveling together, speaking to more groups, and sharing their story.
"If you have a pulse today, you have a purpose. Because it doesn't matter if you have a handicap. I look at all that went against Maleka her whole life: being burned, being blind, being delayed, and yet she has a pulse and she has a purpose. She's making a difference in this world," she said.
Maleka says what she enjoys about traveling is meeting people and dining out.