U of L student travels world from hospital bed

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Family, friends and strangers are helping a U of L student see the world from his hospital bed. Using an idea that many children did in grade school, this new effort isn't as much about the destination as it is the journey.

WDRB News first met Patrick McSweeney several years ago. "Patrick's been in treatment for 14 years, he's relapsed a sixth time. So, this is his seventh battle against leukemia," says Michael McSweeney, Patrick's father.

After finishing up his first two semesters at U of L, the 19-year-old is spending his summer recovering from a second bone marrow transplant. "He's tied up to an IV pole with half a dozen IVs running in him. You can't do anything with any kind of freedom," McSweeney said.

"We thought we'd bring the world to him, and it's done much better than we thought it would," says Joanne Brock, a family friend.

Rome, Greece and the Big Apple. Patrick is making the rounds from his hospital room. "My daughter and I played around on the computer and we got Patrick's face into Flat Stanley's body," Brock said.

Brock created a Facebook page, Flat Patrick Travels the World, to document Patrick's travels. "We've tried to hit all 50 states before Patrick gets out of isolation. So, we've been to California, Boston, Nova Scotia, he's been to Mexico, Hawaii. I'm hoping someone knows someone in Alaska," Brock said.

Brock is a long time family friend. It's the latest, yearly effort to raise his spirits and many times, funds. "We never dreamed it would be 14 years later that we would still have to come up with something, but you know what, we're there until they're not needed anymore," Brock said.

The page has only been active for two weeks. "Which has taken off like wildfire," McSweeney said.

Patrick is able to go online and check out his worldly travels. "More often he checks in with Mom and Dad," McSweeney said.

His suitcase is packed. "I got him a unicorn shirt, we gave him some shades because a lot of people are taking him to the beach," Brock said.

Brock even took it a step further. "We made a flat Debbie because I feel bad for his mom. So, we make Debbie and we take her to get margaritas and other things she wishes she could do. We're going to take her to get a mani, pedi soon," Brock said.

It's more than just a fun idea. "It's a good way to teach kindness and empathy with your own children and look outside yourself and help someone else," Brock said.

Family members say doctors are hopeful that this latest operation means a 70 percent chance for a full cure for Patrick. "It's fascinating to see how kind people who we don't even know can be and how they've embraced him and it speaks to his spirit," Brock said.

In the meantime. "All you have to do is print him out, color him and take him with you," McSweeney said.

Patrick is going to more places than anyone thought possible for a single person. "At first you're thinking 'well, it'd be nice for Patrick to be at those places versus where he is right now', but after I saw it [Facebook page] take off, it's not about where Patrick is. It's about the love and support that these people are giving him. I mean, they're taking a little bit of time out of their trip wherever it may be and it's been worldwide and share a few moments with Patrick and they're thinking about him. That's what's special," McSweeney said. 

To download your Flat Patrick, click here.

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