11-year-old Becomes A Pilot
(November 6, 2010)
|JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii (11/3/2010 - AFNS) -- When an 11-year-old becomes a pilot, it's a headline maker. When an 11-year-old survives potentially terminal brain cancer, it's a headline maker. |
And the heroes who made both of those things possible for 11-year-old Ryder Lum were the doctors and staff of Kapiolani Women's and Children's Hospital, and the men and women of the 535th Airlift Squadron at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.
Capt. Jasmine McCann gives 11-year-old Ryder Lum and his best friend Everett Fan mementos from their tour of a KC-135 Stratotanker Oct. 29, 2010, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. Ryder was part of the 535th Airlift Squadron's quarterly Pilot for a Day program, which allows children with catastrophic disorders or illnesses to experience a day in the life of an Air Force pilot.
| ||Ever since Ryder was unexpectedly diagnosed with diabetes insipidus in March 2007, his parents, Richelle and David, and his best friend since preschool, Everett Fan, were by his side, helping him through. |
After multiple surgeries to remove a massive brain tumor, followed by chemotherapy and radiation, Ryder has accomplished what they thought might be impossible: he earned a clean bill of health.
Then, the four of them were able to visit JB Hickam together and see him do something else that wouldn't otherwise be possible: fly a C-17 Globemaster III.
Ryder got to fly Hickam's C-17 simulator as part of the 535th AS Pilot for a Day program Oct. 29, 2010. His day-long agenda also included tours of the military working dog kennels here, a personal tour of a static KC-135 Stratotanker, and the opportunity to talk
|to pilots and crewmembers.|
|"I wasn't expecting this place to be like this," Ryder said when the day was over. "I knew it would be cool, but I didn't realize they were going 'all out' like this!"|
Each stop they made showed Ryder, who is an only child, more and more about the men and women of the Air Force in Hawaii, who care enough about kids like him to take the time every three months to invite a child to join them for a day.
He became an honorary member of both the 535th AS and the 96th Air Refueling Squadron.
They gave him his own flight suit, unit patches, challenge coins to add to his growing collection, T-shirts, and other mementos that will always remind him that his life is valued and celebrated.
"Doing this allows us to singularly focus on an individual and show how much we value their courage in fighting whatever condition it is they're battling," said Lt. Col. Brian Hill, the 96th ARS commander. "We want to let that person know that, despite whatever ailment or disease they're fighting, they're not alone. They've got people in their corner who want to encourage them, and they have a network of support that's bigger than they could ever imagine."
Fortunately, even though Ryder's entire pituitary gland is gone, he is still able to produce some of his own hormones.
But, he "has to take pills and give himself shots every day for the rest of his life," said David, his father.
A shunt was surgically placed into Ryder's skull to drain the fluid caused by what he jokingly refers to as his "type 3" diabetes.
This delicate implant limits the amount of sports and other high-risk activities Ryder can do. Although he played every sport before his diagnosis and now he has to take it easy, he and his family are just thankful for his life.
"This experience has put everything into perspective," said Richelle, his mother. "What was important back then isn't as important now. We try not to take anything for granted, and make the most of and appreciate everything we do have."
Simply being in the community is reason enough for Hawaii's Airmen to support the Pilot for a Day program, Colonel Hill said.
"Especially in ... such a fantastic community, any opportunity we have to get engaged and show what it is we do in their service is a positive," Colonel Hill said. "A lot of people might look at the gates and wonder what's going on. This gives them a chance to get a peek at what their tax dollars are being used for and the kind of people who are serving."
"It's very important for us to be able to spread what we do and how we do it, and our ability to tell it to someone who has been through so much is very gratifying," said Tech. Sgt. Royer, the 96th ARS boom operator who answered all of Ryder's "non-standard, grownup questions" about the tanker. "It was a very special day."
Article and photo by USAF SSgt. Carolyn Viss
15th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Reprinted from Air Force News Service
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