Aiden Hunter

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Aiden Hunter, Zionsville, Ind.

“I ate some junk food once, but that’s about it,” said Aiden Hunter, a freshman at Zionsville Community High School, when asked if he had ever been sick before. Aiden had zero risk factors for a lightning-fast onset of septic shock. His parents had a front row seat to his body breaking completely down—organ by organ. 

“Flu followed by pneumonia is a very nasty one-two punch,” said Riley Pediatric Critical Care Physician Matt Yuknis, M.D. It was March 20, 2017, when Aiden arrived at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health. “I thought he was the sickest kid in Indiana, and quite possibly the sickest kid I’ve ever treated,” said Dr. Yuknis, who treated Aiden in the Riley Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. “The body reacts so strongly to the infection, the reaction itself causes a host of issues, including multiple organ failure and acute respiratory distress.” 

The speed of Aiden’s decline was particularly alarming: Aiden was singing at his school’s choir concert on Wednesday night and by Sunday evening, he was fully intubated and on ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation), the highest level of life support. This support system, partially funded by Riley Children’s Foundation donors, does the work of the heart and lungs to give the patient’s body a chance to grow stronger and more stable. Aiden was also on constant dialysis to do the work for his kidneys. At one point, his chance of survival was estimated to be about 18 percent. Aiden spent 32 days at Riley and lost 20 pounds before returning home. 

What happened during those 32 days was an incredible choreography of clinical expertise and care coordination that helped Aiden’s body fight its way back. Within a month, he made a full recovery and finished seventh grade on time. “Watching the team work was unbelievable,” said Aiden’s dad, Corey Hunter. “There were three nurses in with Aiden 24/7. During morning rounds, at least 30 people were gathered every day to discuss Aiden’s case.” Pulling together an expert team quickly is precisely what makes Riley Hospital special, and what saved Aiden’s life. Highly skilled specialists synchronize care to the best that research, technology and innovation can offer.

Aiden participated in the 2018 Riley Critical Care Walkathon to raise money for Riley and was able to see many of the professionals who treated him. Dr. Yuknis, impressed by Aiden’s resilience, nominated him for the Riley Champions program. “I just can’t say enough about the team,” said Aiden’s mom Carly. “We ran into a nurse who helped transport him here in the ambulance and she started crying when she saw him. She didn’t think he was going to make it. They should be proud of what they did.” 

Click here to learn more about our Riley Champions program. 

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