He may be small in size, but he’s mightier than any of his favorite superheroes.
Jay Ryon was a typical first grader at Round Lake Elementary in 2014 when an odd bruise on the back of his knee and a low-grade fever led to his eventual leukemia diagnosis. After an emotionally winding road of peaks and valleys, Jay returned to Florida Hospital for Children in September, 2016, where he remains today after undergoing over a half dozen surgeries during this four month stay. His last surgery was a bone marrow transplant last Friday.
During his long brave struggle, Jay became not only a rock star, but also the community's son. His family inspired empathetic parents who couldn't begin to fathom their painful plight. Sorrento residents Maggie and Nick Ryon had to watch their young son struggle with a weakened immune system caused by two grueling bouts of chemotherapy, resulting in serious sepsis infections.
"It's been rough in a lot of ways. Financially it is crazy expensive even with insurance, but we have been beyond blessed with the support of our community," said Maggie.
As if the typical side effects of chemo aren't brutal enough, Jay also battled two additional infections as a result. The first was in the lymph nodes in his neck after an ant bite that required five surgeries and over a year of antibiotics for him to be rid of the infections.
The other was a serious fungal infection in his arm requiring nine major surgeries including the eventual amputation of his arm to his shoulder just before Christmas. During all of this, Jay relapsed, requiring a bone marrow transplant last week from his father, a Lake County firefighter and paramedic. The term 'super hero' is now an understatement for this resilient young fighter.
Jay is currently doing amazingly well after the amputation and transplant surgeries according to his mom. She credits much of that to Jay growing up at Easterseals Camp Challenge where she is the director.
"Jay has been exposed to individuals with disabilities his whole life. He knows it doesn't have to hold him back from anything," said Maggie.
The last few days, have been trying with Jay fighting high fevers and an elevated heart rate. The young, animal lover has spent over 300 nights in the hospital over the last three years. And he isn't done yet.
"The support of the community is truly what gets us through the day to day." said Maggie. "This admission especially--we've been here over 4 months. That's a long time to be away from home."
Jay is one very tough cookie, but also every bit the typical ten year old. He loves the Florida Gators, glitter, tie-dye, video games, Disney, rainbows, superheroes, legos, disc golf, dogs, and cats, but his favorite animal is the unicorn. "It was only a matter of time before he chose it as a theme for his birthday," said Maggie of his upcoming birthday.
Team Jay's Rainbow Unicorn 10th Birthday Party and fundraiser will be Monday, January 30 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Cupcake Delights at 122 E. 4th Avenue in downtown Mount Dora. During the party 50% of all cupcake proceeds will be donated to Team Jay to assist with a safe outdoor play environment at his home.
Birthday cards can be dropped off at the shop and will picked up by his family along with a special Rainbow Unicorn cake that day. If you're able to attend, please call 352-383-2200 so they can plan for enough cupcakes. For those who can’t attend but would like to help, you can donate at the GoFundMe page hereto help with the high cost of treatment not covered by insurance.