Pass the Cash: Ryan Howell

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - WMBF News is passing the cash to kick off a fundraising effort for Ryan Howell, a little boy who has Cerebral Palsy.

Co-workers of Ryan's father are rallying around the family. The group of people who works at the House of Blues is just an extension of Ryan's support system.

They're hoping to raise thousands of dollars for an experimental treatment that is helping Ryan live a life he otherwise may not get to.

At work and at home, Wes Howell, Ryan's father, is looked to as a pillar of support and kind heartedness.

Patty Barwick, a co-worker to Wes and fundraiser organizer in Ryan's effort, says she has no doubt Wes would help support anyone in the same position.

"He is such a joy to work with. You walk by him and think hardcore biker, but you start talking to him and he has a heart of gold," says Patty.

Doctors think Ryan had a stroke before he was even born, leading to a life of full-time care.

Recently, Wes and his wife Anita discovered a new treatment they believe is helping Ryan achieve things he couldn't before.

"They've already seen improvements after the first one so they're very encouraged about what the second round is going to do for them. [Wes] has great insurance, but the insurance does not cover it because it is experimental," explains Chris Hall, friend to Wes.

The treatment is called hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Ryan is already scheduled for his second round in June, but the family is facing a $6,000 hurdle to get him there.

So Patty and Chris and the rest of the House of Blues Gang will host a poker run and benefit concert to raise money for the Howell's.

Patty says the effort is "just to make their lives a little bit easier, as much as we can."

Wes and Anita said like any parents, they were scared when first faced with Ryan's condition.

"The medical terminology for it is infarction, which means a stroke, and when we were first told I was like 'what?' I never heard of that happening to children before," recalls Wes.

They were told Ryan was legally blind when he was born, and he spent years on a special diet to control seizures.

"He tries to act just like any normal kid, he just can't," explains an emotional Wes.

Anita found comfort in speaking with other moms of special needs kids online, and says that's where she heard of the hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

"They put you in a chamber and they increase the pressure and when it gets to full pressure, they put you in pure oxygen. The pressure forces pure oxygen into damaged areas of the brain and non-damaged," Anita explains of Ryan's experimental procedures.

The therapy is not statically proven and is very expensive.

But according to the Howell's, one YouTube video led them to having to try the treatment.

Wes says the 10 minute video clip on the social network site showed a 17-year-old boy who suffered brain damage after a car crash. The teen took part in the hyperbaric oxygen therapy, leading to physical results the Howell's hope for for their son.

Ryan had his first treatment last summer.

Now, Anita says he can sit up by himself for 20 minutes at a time, his vision has improved, he's not having seizures anymore and for the first time in his life, Ryan is off his special diet and medication.

"He's starting to speak now. January 4, he said his first sentence, he said 'I love you'," says Anita.

The couple says even though they've seen major improvements in their son's abilities, they aren't getting their hopes up just yet.

"It's not a miracle drug, it don't work on everyone, it affects people differently," admits Wes.

The Howell's, however, are grateful for the chance to tell Ryan's story in an attempt to reach other parents who wonder about the therapy.

If you would like to help Ryan and his family reach their goal to continue treatment, visit the website set up by friends of the family.

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