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Chronically Ill Child Is Pilot For A Day At McConnell

By: Stephanie Diffin Email
By: Stephanie Diffin Email

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March 25, 2011

What does it take to be pilot for a day? For one little girl, it's amazing spirit and perseverance.

10-year-old Kara Marr was recently diagnosed with chronic kidney failure. Now, as she waits for a transplant, she's undergoing extensive dialysis treatments. But Friday, McConnell Air Force Base found a way to get her mind off her condition.

"Every time we come across I-35 to take her to dialysis she'll [say], 'Nanny, Nanny there's a plane!' And so she was really excited to see the plane today that she sees flying above us all the time," said Kara's grandmother, Tara Smith.

Friday, Kara not only got to see the plane, but also sit in the pilot's seat. It's something not many people get to do.

"She's getting to do things that I've never even seen or been able to do, like get to ride in the fire truck," said Air Force 1st Lt. Benjamin Mattalino.

It's a break from Kara's normal routine, which involves four hour dialysis treatments three days a week, each time with an hour-and-a-half drive from her home in Southeast Kansas. All this, as she waits for a new kidney.

"Just to hear what she's going through and that she can do it with such a big personality and such a positive attitude it almost gives more to us than we get to give to [her]," said Mattalino.

But to Kara, the special treatment is a way to forget her condition, and for a few hours not only be a normal kid, but an honorary pilot.

"To see her moving around and being energetic and to be able to do things like a normal child is very rewarding," said Wesley Medical Center Child Life Specialist Jennifer Stanley.

The day was also about giving back to a little girl whose smile and spirit is contagious to those around her.

"She faces it with a smile," said Smith, "So I figure why can't we, if she can."

Kara is only the fifth child to be able to experience the honor at McConnell.


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