Local teen who beat odds celebrates 18th birthday by skydiving

Arturo Sullivan continues to overcome hurdles

JAMUL, Calif. - Arturo Sullivan would not be suiting up for a tandem skydive if his doctors had been right. However, he is used to defying expectations.

Jumping out of a plane on his 18th birthday is just another milestone on a journey that has been filled with bigger challenges.

"When he was 3, he would laugh or cry and he would turn blue and he would stop breathing or pass out," said his mother, Karen Sullivan.

Sullivan met her son at Rady Children's Convalescent Hospital. At 7 months, he was removed from his home because of medical neglect. Sullivan was one of his nurses.  

"He just has this ability to grab people," she said.

He grabbed Sullivan so much so that while he was connected to life support at the age of 4, she adopted him in a hospital bedside ceremony.  

Arturo's condition restricts his growth and keeps his rib cage so small it prevents his lungs from developing fully, making it difficult to breathe. Doctors said he would not survive. 

"He woke up during the ceremony and pointed at the door and said he wanted to go home," said Sullivan.

Arturo has had more than 50 surgeries. His latest was in March to remove rib cage expanders. Doctors said he might not survive that.

"Every year it's a milestone that we're here," said Sullivan.

Now, 14 years after he was not expected to live, Arturo, two buddies and their skydiving instructors took off down the runway with Sullivan anxiously watching.

"He does get to do a lot of stuff that people are surprised that I'll let him do, but he only lives once," she said.

About 15 minutes later, there was a sighting: a red chute against the blue sky and then a perfect landing to loud cheers and shouts.

"It was kind of scary once I got out, but it was pretty fun," Arturo said moments after his feet were safely back on the ground.

Sullivan gave him a big hug and told him she loves him.

"There's been times that it's been really scary and everything, but I would never change it," she said.

After Arturo graduates from Granite Hills High School next year, he hopes to go into comic design. 

Arturo still faces medical hurdles. He now needs a bone marrow transplant. Learn more about how to become a donor by clicking here.

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