Former Riley Champion talks about his love for Riley

September 24, 2019
Topics: Dance Marathons, Riley Kid Story, Riley Champions

Rik Bag Full Size

My Riley journey started in September 2015. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a chronic, inflammatory bowel disease, within two weeks of starting my freshman year at Carmel High School.

Crohn’s has a lot of extra-intestinal manifestations and I also suffer from asthma and acute migraines. In addition to my Riley gastroenterologist, I was under the treatment of several other Riley specialties. I was enrolled in all advanced and AP courses, but between clinic visits, surgeries, and other procedures, I missed roughly 30 percent of high school.

Every Riley specialist I visited treated me as a person and not just another patient.  They made me feel special and brave about my own journey. During my visits I saw little kids being wheeled around in Riley red wagons. It broke my heart to see how much they were enduring so early in life, and I promised to give back at the earliest opportunity, to the best of my ability. For two years I was a proud participant and speaker at Carmel High School Dance Marathon, which raised close to half a million dollars each year. My goal is to continue participating in Dance Marathon in college.

The Riley GI team at IU North has been my home base. I went every 8 weeks for infusions, and the nurses became like family. I also found a professional mentor there. This summer I was grateful to walk down the halls of Riley as the Van Laeken Summer Research Fellow* under Dr. Jean Molleston, the head of Riley GI. Under her guidance I learned a lot about the process of medical research, electronic medical systems, patient privacy, and how to interpret data - all invaluable learnings for me as an informed patient and a future doctor.

I am also a very proud Riley Champion alum and had an outstanding experience serving as a Riley ambassador with the 2018 class. At the Hope Happens Here Luncheon in November 2017 I told the crowd of Riley caregivers, donors, and friends that I would like to return to the forum one day, on the other side of the stage. I intend to uphold that promise. I started college at the Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania this August. My journey from being acutely sick while starting high school to attending an Ivy League College has been possible because of the exceptional care that I have received at Riley. I will remain a lifelong Riley fan and ambassador.

*The Van Laeken Summer Research Fellow is funded by the Van Laeken Endowment Fund for Liver Research, established through Riley Children's Foundation.

Rik Bag

Rik Bag is a proud Riley kid and former Riley Champion from Carmel, IN. Rik recently started college at University of Pennsylvania and plans to pursue a career in medicine and business.

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