6-year-old Shriners patient spends the day at NASCAR race
Wyatt Banks doesn’t let anything slow him down.
Wyatt, who turns 6 this month, is a patient ambassador for Shriners Hospital – Greenville. He uses a wheelchair due to transverse myelitis, a rare inflammation of the spinal cord that left him paralyzed as a baby.
“He was born healthy,” Abby Banks, Wyatt’s mother, said. “I put him to bed one night and he was paralyzed the next morning.”
Banks chronicles her son’s victories on a Facebook page, Wyatt’s Fight Against TM, and in her book, “Love Him Anyway: Finding Hope in the Hardest Places.”
“It really is a one-in-a-million autoimmune disease,” she said.
Following Wyatt’s initial hospitalization, he did inpatient rehabilitation at Shriners Hospital in Philadelphia, where the hospital system’s spinal cord team is located. Now, he has regular appointments in Greenville and still receives some therapy in Philadelphia.
“He is paralyzed from the chest down,” Banks said. “He’s a full-time wheelchair user. He’s got complete use of his arms and hands. Wyatt has some movement in his hip flexor muscles, which is what we really work on at Shriners.”
As a patient ambassador, Wyatt is often the face of what is possible for families who are just embarking on a journey through getting care for their child.
“It’s not some secret code to be a Shriners patient,” Banks said. “If there is some child with an orthopedic injury, they want them to be seen. We are super blessed to have them here within driving distance.”
Wyatt and his family, including his parents and 12-year-old brother – his 7-year-old sister chose a different day of fun – were thrilled to be chosen to attend a NASCAR race as the guests of driver and Shriner David Ragan. Banks said she grew up going to races with her father, so the event is an extra special one to share. It is important to Banks to make sure her other children don’t miss out on childhood experiences.
“Once we had Wyatt’s diagnosis, a lot of the family activities just stopped,” she said. “Our trips are around his therapy. It’s a big deal to them to get to do something fun that’s not medical-related. They spend so much time waiting in doctors’ offices and at therapy appointments.”
And for Wyatt, the connection to Ragan makes it all the more fun.
“He loves that it’s a Shriners car,” Banks said. “He thinks of it as his hospital. It’s a community there.”