TIVERTON, R.I. (WPRI) — David Ryan absolutely loves Disney.
So much so that the 21-year-old and his family visit the Happiest Place on Earth each November to celebrate his birthday.
But what was supposed to be a week-long trip turned into a harrowing 21 days for the Tiverton family.
Florence Ryan, David’s mother, tells 12 News her son has congenital myotonic dystrophy, which is a neuromuscular disorder that causes muscle weakness and stiffness.
The rare genetic disorder also leaves him immunocompromised.
“On the last day before we were supposed to leave, David got sick,” Florence explained. “He developed a cold that turned into pneumonia very quickly.”
Florence rushed her son to the hospital, where the situation took a turn for the worse.
“It was very scary,” she recalled. “He was very lethargic and we were just concerned … we didn’t know if we could bring him home because he was so sick.”
David ended up developing pneumonia in both of his lungs and was struggling to breathe on his own.
Florence spent the next two weeks by her son’s side, watching as he fought for his life hundreds of miles away from home.
“There was a lot of anxiety and stress,” she said. “I wasn’t sure he was coming home with us.”
But David did come home, just in time for Thanksgiving.
“It’s the best Thanksgiving ever,” David’s aunt Laurie Gebler said. “There’s a lot to be thankful for.”
Now that he’s recovered, David is already preparing for next year’s trip to Disney.
“The last two days … he’s been writing lists of what we’re going to do next November,” Florence said with a smile.