The Best Mother's Day Gift I Can Imagine

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Tammy and Phoenix Bridegroom, Chesterton, Ind.

This Mother’s Day will mean more to me than ever because of all that my daughter Phoenix and I have been through together.

During Phoenix’s recent stay at Riley Hospital for Children, there was never a doubt in my mind that I would be with her 24/7. We knew it would be a long hospital stay – more than a month. It was her second battle with leukemia, and a stem cell transplant was her best option for long-term survival. Phoenix and I work very well together. My husband John traveled back and forth from our home in Northeastern Indiana and helped keep things going at home and at work.

We had some tough nights, including one very challenging night when Phoenix had some extremely low blood pressures and she was being watched carefully. As the alarms went off throughout the night, I would jump up to try to keep them from waking her up.

It’s difficult when you’re in a room trying to sleep, wanting your child to rest, and you want to rest, and you’re both exhausted, but there are other things going on, but your instincts kick in. I just feel like that’s what you’re there for.

Some nights you get to sleep, and some nights you don’t. You just do what you have to do.

The worst night for me was when Phoenix had to get an NG tube (a feeding tube inserted through the nose), which she was extremely upset about. Her biggest fear was throwing it up and having it put back in. And that happened. I was with her and I had to convince her she had to have it put back in. It’s so emotional to me to recall that moment because she was begging me to help her not have to go through it. But I knew that it was a very important thing for her care.

It can feel like psychological torture in those situations. It was one of those rare, hard times as a Riley mom when you feel like you’re betraying your child because they don’t understand why everything has to happen. It was a bad night. But the very next day, we moved forward.

Our best moments were when we found out the stem cell transplant was working—that the cells were growing and coming in more quickly than anticipated. We were absolutely thrilled! There was a lot of celebration. We were revived emotionally and physically.

When we finally walked out of the hospital after 39 days, it was one of the happiest moments of our lives. You feel like you want to yell and cry and cheer all at the same time.

Today, Phoenix is doing well and getting stronger every day. We are so grateful to the Riley staff, who became our family. They care about your child like a family member. Everyone is there because they love children so much. They loved our child and wanted her to do well.

I think it’s wonderful that this year, people are getting the chance to make Mother’s Day tribute gifts to Riley. If someone made a Mother’s Day gift to Riley in my name, that would make me feel like a ROCK STAR. That would be awesome.

It would be the greatest compliment for my greatest accomplishment.

Click here to honor an exceptional mother by making a Mother’s Day tribute gift to Riley in her name.

View our special Riley Mother's Day video by clicking here.

Tammy Bridegroom, Riley Parent

Tammy and her husband of 18 years, John, live in the Northern Indiana community of Chesterton with their daughters Phoenix and Diva. Tammy worked in the past as an administrator for her local YMCA, and became a full-time mom after Phoenix's diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukemia three years ago.

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