By Kathy Walsh

BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) – A junior at the University of Colorado will spend this summer cycling. He will pedal across the country on a 3,500 mile trek from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C.

His fraternity, Pi Kappa Phi, is riding to raise money for people with disabilities. It’s called the Journey of Hope. For 20-year-old Chris Downs, it’s personal.

Chris Downs in 2016 (credit: CBS)

Chris Downs in 2016 (credit: CBS)

“I am definitely lucky to be alive,” Downs told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.

Walsh first met Downs in 1995. He was 3 weeks old and his parents “miracle.” Downs was born with a rare birth defect, a diaphragmatic hernia which is a hole in his diaphragm. His intestines had pushed up into his chest.

Chris Downs in 1995 (credit: CBS)

Chris Downs in 1995 (credit: CBS)

Back in 1995, pediatric surgeon Dr. Jack Chang said, “Across the board, it’s about 75 percent mortality rate.”

Baby Chris had surgery. For 11 days at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center (PSL), a machine did the job of his heart and lungs. His parents, Syd and Teresa Downs, were by his side and shared buttons with staff that said “I believe in miracles.”

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

“He survived and most likely is going to be normal,” Dr. Jeff Hanson, a neonatologist told Walsh back then.

Today, Hanson says “I believe in miracles” is still the slogan in the intensive care nursery at the Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children, which opened in 2010 as part of PSL.

Syd and Teresa Downs with Chris in 1995 (credit: CBS)

Syd and Teresa Downs with Chris in 1995 (credit: CBS)

Syd, Chris and Teresa Downs in 2016 (credit: CBS)

Syd, Chris and Teresa Downs in 2016 (credit: CBS)

“Christopher is a success. That’s what it’s all about,” Hanson said.

Walsh asked Chris’ mother what she thinks when she sees Chris now.

“Just gratitude. I’m so overwhelmingly grateful, ” Teresa Downs answered.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

This summer, Chris Downs will ride for a reason.

“To give back to people that really didn’t have the same opportunities I had,” he said.

The miracle baby is now a kind and caring young man.

Additional Resources

To donate to Chris Downs’ Journey of Hope go to The Ability Experience website.

Kathy Walsh is CBS4’s Weekend Anchor and Health Specialist. She has been with CBS4 for more than 30 years. She is always open to story ideas. Follow Kathy on Twitter @WalshCBS4.

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