Baby Lawson back in Ocala after treatment

Sam and Jessica Armstrong pose for a photo with their daughter, Peyton, 4, and their other daughter, Lawson, 8 months, after Lawson was flown back to Ocala on Injury Attorney Dan Newlin’s Citation Latitude jet at Ocala International Airport in Ocala, Fla. on Tuesday, May 4, 2021. Lawson was born with an immunodeficiency condition and received a bone marrow transplant and had chemotherapy at Boston Children’s Hospital. She was there for 4 1/2 months and was well enough to come back home to Ocala to her family. There are numerous signs around Ocala that read “Love For Lawson” that show community support for Lawson and her family. Attorney Dan Newlin donated the use of his corporate plane to bring Lawson back home again. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2021.

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Posted May 4, 2021 | By Ainslie Lee,

Sam and Jessica Armstrong pose for a photo with their daughters, Peyton, 4, and Lawson, 8 months, after Lawson was flown back to Ocala on Tuesday. Lawson was born with a condition that required a bone marrow transplant at Boston Children’s Hospital. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]

Peyton Armstrong stayed up way past her bedtime on Monday night.

While the four-year-old should be in bed by 9 p.m., she was still awake early into Tuesday.

She was too excited to see her mom and baby sister for the first time in four and a half months.

Her sister, Lawson Armstrong, returned to Ocala on Tuesday afternoon for the first time since being airlifted to Boston Children’s Hospital on Dec. 20. The now eight-month-old received treatment for a rare autoimmune condition that left the child with very few platelets, essential for proper blood clotting.

Kelly Juarez, Lawson’s grandmother, said the baby was born with 8,000 platelets, while the average infant has around 200,000 platelets. Lawson’s condition, known as bone marrow failure, was initially treated by blood and platelet transfusions while doctors sought a match for a bone marrow transplant.

Lawson’s story evolved into a local grassroots campaign known as “Love For Lawson.”

A Love For Lawson sign is shown in the yard of a home in southeast Ocala on Jan. 19. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]

Pink yard signs began popping up in the Ocala area in support of the baby and her family.

A GiveSendGo fundraising campaign has raised more than $62,000 to help pay for Lawson’s medical expenses and the family’s housing.

Lawson received a bone marrow transplant on Feb. 9. Exactly 12 weeks to the day, she was finally back home.

Lawson and Jessica arrived at the Ocala International Airport after a two-hour-and-45-minute plane ride from Boston’s Logan International Airport. The Cessna Citation Latitude business jet’s wheels skidded across the runway at 2:47 p.m., marking the end of Lawson and Jessica Armstrong’s stay away from home.

Despite staying up late the night before, Payton was full of energy.

As the jet taxied around the runway, Peyton stood alongside her father, Sam Armstrong, with her fingers shoved in her ears. But the moment she caught sight of her mother emerging from the plane, Peyton broke free from her father and headed toward her mother.

“It feels so good to be back,” Jessica Armstrong said. “(Lawson) slept the whole flight.”

Because Lawson’s immune system is still weak, finding a safe way home was a challenge. Flying commercial wasn’t an option, and driving back would have taken up to three days because of frequent stops.

Central Florida attorney Dan Newlin, who heard about the case, offered his plane.

According to Jeffrey Hefner, who piloted Tuesday’s flight from Boston, when Newlin heard the Armstrongs’ story, he instantly offered to help.

“This is Dan’s generosity,” Hefner said. “He gave me the keys to his $15 million jet and told me to take care of these people… Definitely precious cargo.”

Lawson will continue to receive treatment at UF Health Shands and will return to Boston once a year for check-ups.

Meanwhile, Juarez says the family will have to live in a “bubble environment” to keep Lawson’s exposure to germs at a minimum. Fortunately for Juarez, she gets to be a part of the bubble as she helps care for Peyton.

“I don’t even know her,” Juarez said of Lawson. “I’m going to get to know her though.”

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