Fayetteville child 'Face' of Children's Christmas Parade

Ryan Lewis had his first open heart surgery at five days old and had his second at four months old. He had a congenital heart defect that basically gave him half a heart. When he was just over three and a half years old, he had a heart transplant. Today, he is a happy and healthy pre-K student, wrestling with his brothers and on Saturday he will be this year’s “Face” of the 2009 Children’s Christmas Parade in Atlanta, on a float with Atlanta Braves pitcher Tim Hudson (also a Fayette County resident) and his family.
“When he was due to have his transplant, they told us to be ready to stay at the hospital for six weeks,” Ryan’s mother, Laura, said. His recovery went so well that he walked out of the hospital one week later.
The Lewis family is so grateful to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and for the care that Ryan received, that they help out however they can. This often means sharing their story and serving as ambassadors for the hospital and Children’s Miracle Network. This week it means being in a parade and meeting Santa Claus, something Ryan stated he was looking forward to. He even asked his mother if it meant he was going to get to be a rock star.
The Lewis family has been touched by all of the support they received, not just from the hospital staff and the community, but from people from all over who have heard their story and prayed for Ryan.
“One man is running a marathon in Ryan’s honor next year,” Laura said. “He wrote a letter explaining that while he has sustained injuries throughout his training and wanted to quit, he has thought of Ryan and how he never quit during his ordeal.”
According to his mother, Ryan takes a lot in stride and despite having some hard memories to deal with, is an active, happy and humble kid. Ryan’s health struggles have been an emotional rollercoaster, but it has forged stronger connections in the family as well as in friendships and fellowships all over the world.
“The prayers go everywhere and we return the favor for others,” Laura said. “It really has been a blessing.”
The parade begins where Peachtree Street meets Baker Street at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday. It will be broadcast live on WSB. The route follows Peachtree Street, turns right onto Marietta Street and finishes along Centennial Olympic Park Drive. Proceeds from the 2009 Children’s Christmas Parade will help fund programs and equipment to serve the patients and families at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, including emergency services at Children’s, Safe Kids Georgia, clinical research, family support services such as chaplaincy, child life specialists and social work, and the Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit.