WASHINGTON – First lady Laura Bush visited sick children at a hospital Thursday, escorted through the halls by a 13-year-old victim of the Washington sniper attacks.
Also in tow: One of the Bushes' dogs, Barney, who brought cheer to bedridden kids and later took them on a videotaped tour of the White House.
Iran Brown showed no signs of his gunshot wounds, which left bullet fragments scattered in several of his major organs. Thumbs hooked in his pockets, he smiled but said little as he stood for photos with Mrs. Bush and his family.
"You look like you're doing great!" Mrs. Bush told Iran, who was discharged from Children's National Medical Center more than a month ago. "Bless you, darling."
Iran's mother, Lisa Brown, told ABC News Thursday that she collapsed when she first saw him in intensive care.
"He was hooked up to everything. He wasn't breathing on his own," Lisa Brown said. "I know now that he had a total of eight chest tubes and side tubes."
For Mrs. Bush, the visit maintained a decades-long tradition. First ladies since Jackie Kennedy have paid holiday visits to young patients at the hospital.
"This is a very sweet tradition I'm really glad to have the opportunity to continue," she said. "My message to the kids is, have a happy holiday and be safe and get well soon. I can see in their parents' eyes how their parents are worried."
Mrs. Bush visited with several hospitalized children, including 7-year-old Kyle Wood, his leg in a sling and his bedside decorated with holiday ornaments.
"You want to meet Barney?" she asked Kyle, who nodded yes. "He's a sweet dog. He won't bite."
An aide hoisted the dog to Wood's bedside so he could pet the Scottish terrier. Santa Claus, who accompanied Mrs. Bush, handed Kyle a book by artist Robert Rauschenberg.
Another child tapped at his laptop as Mrs. Bush approached, and interrupted his visit with the first lady to take a phone call. "Wrong number," he said after a few moments. Mrs. Bush patted his bare foot and said, "Merry Christmas."
Mrs. Bush sat with about a hundred children gathered at her feet later and presented a video of a White House tour shot from the perspective of Barney, whose short legs put him just a few inches off the ground.
The video showed Barney as he scurried among the mansion's grand decorations, frolicked in the snow and dueled with the first family's other dog, Spot, for a bone.
Barney was supposed to document the inside of the White House with a "Barney-cam" strapped to his torso. But he refused to move once the lipstick-sized device was attached. So a team chased after him on foot -- sometimes on hands and knees -- with their camera right at Barney's eye level.
"Anything to get the perfect shot," said Jimmy Orr, who oversaw the project.
Asked by a young girl what she would do if she were a superhero, Mrs. Bush responded, "If I had a superpower, it would be to make everybody well."