FORT WAYNE, Ind. (21Alive) -- We've been telling you about "The Gift of Hope Happens Here." It's a fundraising partnership between 21Alive and Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.
This campaign continues to help raise money for a hospital that's touched thousands of families in northeast Indiana over the years, including mine.
It's not something I've spoken publicly about often, but my 17 year old son Blake was diagnosed with a potentially fatal birth defect at 9 months.
The excellent care in Fort Wayne and specialized care at Riley saved his life and helped shape my 6-foot-6 tall boy into the happy, healthy young man he is today.
I hope you will consider a Gift of Hope.
Linda says, "He was diagnosed at 9 months, he's 17 now, with a birth defect, a genetic disorder called Beckwith-Wiedemann.
When he was born, I had to have an emergency c-section, and I thought hmm. And when he was born and weighed 9 pounds 6 ounces, I went hmm!
And we got some answers at 9 months with the diagnosis as to why he was a bigger baby. He had stork bites and a large tongue and different physical characteristics of this disorder.
He was diagnosed by Dr. Patricia Bader, a geneticist in Fort Wayne at the time. She's the one who connected us, if you will, away from the wonderful care we received here to the more specialized care at Riley.
We took him for several regular appointments through the years, and when he was 6 and a half, they discovered the number-one risk that is involved with Beckwith. They discovered a tumor latched on to a kidney, so we took him down to Riley, and they very successfully performed the surgery and saved his life."
Blake says, "Riley basically, when you go there, they make you feel like part of your family. It really does a lot for you, and it makes you feel comfortable in the setting that they put you in. Usually, you'd think a hospital visit would be scary, but they just make you feel a certain way about what's going on.
They've basically shaped me into who I am today, and they allowed me to play sports and participate in activities that I wouldn't have been able to if I would have let my condition go on without treatment.
I'm gonna keep supporting Riley throughout my life, and as many events as they sponsor, I would love to participate in those events because of what they've done for me. I feel as if I should give back to them because they've done the most important thing to me in my life, which is save my life."
Linda says, "So, we're so thankful. And, I say those words, and they're simply not adequate. I can't put into words what my husband and I feel in our hearts and our families.
When we think of Riley and the care at home, he wouldn't be with us if it weren't for them. This has made Blake just a really strong young man, and physically too, because he's in athletics, and he does great in school. We're very lucky that he's come through all of this the way he has and that his diagnosis wasn't more serious when he was 9 months old.
As a parent, when a place and its wonderful staff is responsible for saving your child... that's it. That's how they've impacted us."
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