Remembering Ryan by Giving Back
That’s all the time Matt and Colleen DeRyckere got with their infant son, Ryan.
They expected a lifetime.
During those fleeting hours, hope suddenly turned into heartbreak.
But beautiful moments happened too―moments like seeing baby Ryan’s nurse singing to him and tenderly rubbing his leg, even though he had already passed away. “I walked past his room one last time and his nurse didn’t know I was standing there,” said Colleen. “Even though Ryan was gone, he was still so loved by his nursing staff. It was a really beautiful moment.”
That moment left a permanent imprint on their hearts. Colleen and Matt knew they needed to honor their son’s memory by giving back to Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health.
They never expected to need Riley. As a first-time expectant mother, Colleen felt her pregnancy was going fairly well, other than the fact that her blood pressure was running a bit high. At her 38-week prenatal appointment, the nurse practitioner noticed her baby’s amniotic fluid was low. Colleen also wasn’t feeling well and had been fighting a sinus infection. The decision was made to admit her to labor and delivery.
Before her labor began, Colleen suddenly began losing a significant amount of blood. Doctors discovered her baby’s cardiac activity was low. They rushed Colleen into the operating room for an emergency cesarean section.
Ryan was not breathing when he was born on September 9, 2019, and doctors had to resuscitate him. They soon discovered Colleen had a rare condition where the umbilical cord does not attach normally to the placenta. Her cord had suddenly torn away, which is why the bleeding began. Ryan had been without the blood supply and oxygen he needed for about 10-15 minutes before birth.
As Colleen recovered, a transport team rushed Ryan to Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health. He needed cooling therapy to help his brain recover from the oxygen deprivation. Ryan also developed a significant stomach bleed. The next day, a team of Riley specialists accompanied him to the operating room including Neonatologist Zeynep Salih, M.D., Pediatric Gastroenterologist Shamaila Waseem, M.D., and Pediatric Surgeon Matthew Landman, M.D.
Dr. Landman removed a large blood clot from Ryan’s stomach, but the bleeding remained widespread and problematic. Colleen was allowed an early discharge from her hospital so she could be with her son at Riley. She arrived just in time to join Matt and hear the surgeon’s update. “He told us, ‘At this point it is all up to Ryan’s body,’” recalls Matt. “We spent that night as a family taking pictures, singing to him and holding his hand,” says Colleen. “We went to bed that night and it was the first time we looked at each other and said, ‘If we wake up to a knock on our door, we’ll know it’s probably the end.’”
Indeed, there was a knock at the door. Ryan’s health was declining. The hospital chaplain called in the family’s priest and Ryan was baptized. Soon after that, in the early morning hours of September 12, Ryan’s heart began failing. The medical team did chest compressions until the family decided Ryan had fought long and hard enough.
“We spent time holding him, telling him how proud we were, how much we loved him,” said Colleen. “You never imagine leaving the hospital without your newborn baby. This wasn’t how it was supposed to end. But throughout all of it, we were so grateful to Riley. They gave him that chance to keep fighting until I got there. I don’t know what I would have done if I couldn’t have held him. We were so grateful for everything they did.”
Riley Social Worker Stephanie Shook helped the DeRyckeres connect with Riley Children’s Foundation to direct memorial contributions in Ryan’s honor to Riley. Matt started training to become a Riley Hospital volunteer. Colleen decided to join Women for Riley, a philanthropic and volunteer group within Riley Children’s Foundation. She’s now serving on a Women for Riley committee organizing the annual Riley Cancer Center Family Prom. “It’s been phenomenal,” Colleen says. “I’ve made some awesome relationships through that. I knew I wanted to volunteer at Riley, and I know I’ll do more if I’m involved in a group setting.”
The couple has also created their own fundraising page to benefit the Riley Newborn Intensive Care Unit, got their workplaces and gym involved in supporting Riley, and are raising funds for Riley by running the 500 Festival Mini-Marathon. They appreciate the way the Riley Children’s Foundation team has worked with them to find personal and rewarding ways to express their gratitude through philanthropy. “It’s important for us to support other Riley families, especially in times when it feels like nothing is going right,” says Matt. Colleen adds, “We want to give back to the place that gave us so much.”
To explore personalized ways your family can give back to Riley, contact Danielle Shaw with Riley Children’s Foundation at DShaw@RileyKids.org.
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