Dangerously allergic, Travis
Parker, 9 is freed from a life of hiding from sunlight.
Plenty of kids get new outfits for the opening of school, but nothing like Travis
Parker's NASA-engineered blue space suite. Protected by its Solar Weave, a fabric
that blocks nearly all of the sun's ultraviolet rays, Travis has begun venturing
out into daylight without fear for the first time in his life.
Since birth, Travis, who lives in Old For, N.C., has suffered from Gunther's
disease, a rare genetic disorder that makes him allergic to sunlight.
The briefest exposure results in agonizing itching and angry blisters
that produce slow-healing sores. While his sister Casey Rose, 7, played
in the sunshine with other kids, Travis could only peek from behind venetian
blinds. "Mom, what if I got a great
huge ice cube and threw it at the sun? Teresa Parker recalls him asking. "Maybe
it wouldn't burn me anymore."
On drives to school, Travis-clothed from head to toe even in the hottest
weather-had to hunch down on the footboards. Then when he arrived, "we'd open the car door
and yell, "Run,Travis, run,'" says Teresa, 37, a homemaker. At recess he had
to stay inside, always. "It would break your heart, seeing him sitting there
in the shadows crying," says his Father, David, 51, a sometime care reconditioner.
Then last February, Travis's mother learned about the modified NASA space
suits. To pay for one his parents raised $2,000 in their small Blue Ridge
town, and school mates pleaded with NASA to provide Travis a suit. "His skin is so white
he looks like a ghost, " one wrote. Now, "he's like a bird,? says his mother. "He's