Pittsburgh, Pa - A local 12-year-old could be forgiven for thinking he's invincible. Ryder McDermitt tackled cancer when he was 18 months old, and in recent years, he battled heart problems.
Recently, WTAJ caught up with Ryder and his mother Karrie at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh at UPMC, where he was making another amazing recovery.
For a quick recap: doctors diagnosed Ryder with leukemia when he was a toddler.
It took chemotherapy, radiation, and a cord blood transplant, but he survived and has been cancer-free for years.
However, the treatment that cured his cancer, had severely damaged his heart. He and his mom ended up back at Children's after he developed heart failure. They hoped heart medications would be enough to relieve his symptoms and keep his condition from worsening, but that didn't happen.
Doctors told them, the only remedy was a heart transplant. That happened on January 5.
Soon after his successful surgery, he began a 12-week intensive cardiac rehabilitation program at Children's. The day we visited him he'd walked a mile on the treadmill and was tossing a ball back and forth with his cardiac therapist.
How's he think he's doing? "I'm good. I'm happy. I can do so much more things now. I mean that's the big thing because I was kind of restrained and couldn't really do a lot, but now I can do whatever I want," he says, smiling.
His mother's also excited about the progress he's been making. She says, "he's actually they keep saying five steps ahead of himself, even in the hospital things are going really good."
And the prognosis from cardiologist Dr. Brian Feingold: "I think it's great. He's doing well and there's no reason to think that he isn't going to have decades and decades of really feeling great and being active and being able to pursue anything he wants to do which is wonderful."
Despite the rough times Ryder and Karrie have endured they've always managed to keep a positive attitude. She credits their faith.
"From the beginning, I put my trust in God that's something that I always did. I believe in God and I believe in prayer and I knew if I got the word out there was going to be a lot of people praying for Ryder," she says. adding, "We had people praying for Ryder in almost every state."
And, Ryder adds, the Philippines, too.