Skip to main content

When Not Walking Was Not an Option

Share This article

Mount Kilimanjaro. Even the most experienced climbers must battle physical and mental exhaustion to reach the 19,341-foot summit. One man and his 12-year-old son had other obstacles to overcome. 

“Me being a 42-year-old ex-athlete and a 12-year-old temporarily disabled boy did not have the capacity to climb the mountain.” 

Ryan Mannix and his wife, Jessica, dreaded the long drive to San Francisco from their farm in Horse Creek, California. They had no choice. That’s where the doctor was who might be able to save their seven-year-old son, Abram. 

Jessica said, “There’s not always a way to describe the feelings and emotions that you feel.”

Three days earlier, they’d learned that Abram had a tumor in his spine. According to their doctor it was likely terminal.

“He was asking, 'Am I going to play baseball again?' And that just broke my heart. Yeah. Because I felt the answer was going to be no,” said Ryan.

After arriving at the University of California Medical Center, they met with pediatric neurosurgeon, Dr. Corey Raffel. He said there was a chance the tumor was benign, but the first priority was to remove it. Even then there was no perfect outcome.  

Dr. Corey Raffel said, “I’m sure, 100% sure that when talking to him and the family, I told him there was a chance he'd be paralyzed.”

“I was just crying because I was like, this would be the last time he walks,” said Jessica. “There was definitely a lot of prayer. So, reaching out to everybody and every, you know, anyone we can think, please, please, please pray. This is what's going on with our son right now.”

In surgery, Dr. Raffel found the tumor had spread throughout Abram’s spinal cord. After removing a portion to be tested for cancer, he began the incredibly delicate procedure that would last eleven hours.

Dr. Raffel said, “It’s not so much taking the tumor out, it's getting it to the edge and getting it out. Cause the middle of it, it's abnormal. You just take it out. But then you got to find that edge and be very careful. Cause if you go a little too far, then you've done some damage.” 

After a successful surgery, Abram was taken to recovery. By then, the pathology report had come back. The tumor was benign. Adding to the good news, Abram could move his arms. Other signs, however, were less promising. 

Jessica said, “We could see that there was, there was nothing moving in his legs as hard as he's fighting with his arms, um, yeah.” 

Jessica refused to believe this was where it ended. “I’ve never been so firm with God that I’m not taking no for an answer. Like, he's going to walk again.”

Two days later, on Thanksgiving Day, Abram moved one of his legs while working with a physical therapist. Even though he continued to progress Dr. Raffel reminded them that this would be a very long process. “It's encouraging that he can move at all. I think we're going to see a good bit of improvement. But when you come back to me in six weeks and say, 'well, he's improved, but it's not really good yet,'...I’d say, well, let's wait another six weeks. And then you come back in three months and I’m going to say, let's wait another three months. Cause it takes a year or two to see where the spinal cords going to settle down after having an insult like that,” said Dr. Raffel. 

Abram continued to progress, and after two months in rehab, was released. Instead of being wheeled out in a wheelchair, he convinced the staff to let him walk out using a walker. After all, there was money at stake. 

Abram said, “My grandpa had bet $200 that they would make me a wheelchair out. I thought he just didn't actually believe. I think he was actually just trying to encourage me. But I won the bet. That’s mainly what I was thinking.”

Over the next five years with physical therapy and prayer, Abram continued to improve. As his left leg fully recovered and most of his right he went on to enjoy his brothers and life on the family farm. 

Then, in September 2022 Ryan and Abram, set out to conquer Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Ryan said, “I think the message was not by might nor by power, but by my spirit says Lord of hosts. And that's a scripture that we would meditate on as we were climbing.” 

After six days fighting freezing temperatures and fatigue, they reached the summit known as Uhuru Peak. 

“We walked up to the...the summit sign together, touched it at the same time. I hugged him, told him I loved him, and that I was proud of him. We turned around, kind of just looked at the...the scene and all I could do was proclaim that God was a God of miracles. Who had taken a boy who was paralyzed at sea level to 19,341 feet,” said Ryan.  

Abram took it all in stride. “I guess it would be pretty disappointing to have done all of that and not make it to the top,” said Abram. 

The family made sure to include Dr. Raffel in their celebration. “The family sent me a note, boy did that make me feel good,” said Dr. Raffel.  

Abram, now a teenager, continues to live life with a great deal of gusto. He keeps moving forward, pushing obstacles aside and pursuing his next adventure. 

Jessica said, “I should have known better that Abram would be anything normal because that's just not how God made Abram. And he went and did something that is extraordinary for any 12-year-old to do.”

Abram said, "You always say like, Jesus can do anything, but then once He actually does something incredible, it's different.”

Share Your Story

Share This article

About The Author