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
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
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'
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
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
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
Article and photo by USAF SSgt. Carolyn Viss
15th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Air Force News
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