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Special lad takes North Pole 'trip' to see Santa

December 09, 2000

Special lad takes North Pole 'trip' to see Santa



By MARLO BARNHART / Staff Writer


After nearly a year of trips from Hagerstown to Johns Hopkins Children's Hospital in Baltimore, 3-year-old Ryan Bowers went on a very different journey Saturday.

Ryan, his parents and other families with seriously ill children "flew" to the North Pole and met Santa Claus and his elves ... sort of.

"Ryan really liked it ... the plane ride, meeting Santa," said his mother, Renee Bowers, who joined her husband, Doug, on the excursion.

Johns Hopkins, in cooperation with Continental Airlines and BWI Airport in Baltimore, hosted Flight to the North Pole for child/patients nominated by the Hopkins staff for the make-believe trip.

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"Ryan was already excited when we got on the bus to go to the airport," Renee Bowers said Saturday after they had returned to Hagerstown.

Once on the plane, the children, their families and airline and hospital staff sang carols as the plane taxied on the runway. With the window visors closed, the illusion that the plane was flying was maintained for the kids.

"We reached the North Pole and got off the plane where we were greeted by kids dressed as elves. There was a musical show and then Santa arrived," Renee Bowers said.

The treat was very special for Ryan and his parents. Since February, he has been battling a virus that attacked his liver, resulting in the need for a transplant.

After the transplant was completed, Ryan developed aplastic anemia.

"He's catching up now but he's lost a lot of weight," Renee Bowers said.

Born in May 1997, Ryan was fine until this past February when he got a cold and then, his mother said, his eyes suddenly turned yellow.

There was an initial diagnosis of hepatitis. Then, in late February, Ryan was put on a transplant list at Hopkins. The surgery was done in early March.

Problems continued and Ryan had to endure chemotherapy and more surgery to remove part of his lung that had developed a fungus.

"He is still immunosuppressed and will be for a long time," Renee Bowers said. "I can't put him in day care and I have no family here."

Her own uncomplicated childhood in Michigan didn't prepare Renee Bowers for this challenge, but she said she has learned a lot about what she is capable of doing.

"I give Ryan shots and intravenous medications. ... I had to learn how to do that," she said.

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