An 11-year-old girl with spina bifida was given the ultimate surprise recently when her loved ones cheered her on from outside her Lousiville hospital window before she underwent surgery.
Ryan Neighbors' friends and family couldn't be inside Norton Children's Hospital prior to her 48th surgery on Friday, so they found another way to show their support from afar, CBS affiliate WLKY reported.
Gathered on the 9th floor of the parking garage, right across from Neighbors' hospital room window, the girl's loved ones stood there cheering, waving, and holding up posters and balloon letters, to lift her spirits and show how much they loved her.
"Before she goes into surgery she gets to see us and know there's people behind her who need her to get well and want her to get well to get back on the stage and be Ryan again," Neighbors' friend Hannah Robb told the outlet.
Neighbors was born with spina bifida, according to the outlet.
The birth defect occurs when a baby's spinal cord fails to develop properly, leading the baby to be born with a part of their spinal cord exposed on the back, the American Association of Neurological Surgeons reported.
Those born with the condition may experience physical and intellectual problems that range from mild to severe, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For Neighbors, her particular case resulted in over 40 surgeries — including her most recent one on Friday, which WLKY reported also marked the first time that the girl's loved ones couldn't physically be inside the hospital to wish her well.
Despite the COVID-19 restrictions in place, longtime family-friend De De Cox insisted they find another way to show their support — and arranged for the group to gather at the parking garage just 30 minutes before her surgery, according to the outlet.
Footage captured by WLKY showed Neighbors breaking out into a smile in her hospital bed as her family and friends yelled "We love you, Ryan!" from across the way while waving balloon letters and signs.
"It doesn't take a lot and what did we do today? We gave time. We all have time," said Cox, who has previously been honored by the outlet for her work in helping kids that are chronically ill.
Though Neighbors has been hospitalized for the past seven weeks, her loved ones said they're hopeful that a successful surgery will mean she can finally return home for the holidays.
"It will be okay. It's got to be okay," Cox told WLKY while blowing a kiss to Neighbors.
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