The Call That Changed Our Lives: Will's Riley Story

Will Renken
Will Renken, Indianapolis

This July 5, my 9-year-old son Will and I will be participating in the Patriot Challenge at Lucas Oil Raceway Park in Indianapolis to benefit Riley Hospital for Children. To sum it all up, Riley saved our son’s life! We are happy for this chance to give back.


Our Riley story started in September 2011, when my husband Tom and I went down to Southern Indiana for a weekend retreat of rediscovery in our marriage. Our then-6-year-old son, Will and our 15-month-old son Dominic, were staying with some good friends of ours. That Saturday at around 11 a.m., we received an emergency call that changed our weekend and our lives.

Will was playing outside the railing on a second story loft in our friends’ home, and fell onto the floor of the foyer. They called 911, and the paramedics and fire department decided to transport him to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. It is surreal to hear news about your child. As Tom and I made the two-hour drive up to Indianapolis, I did not understand the severity of the situation.

We soon found out that Will had a skull fracture. He was taken to the intensive care unit, and then went into surgery. He needed a shunt to drain excessive brain fluid and to help with swelling of brain tissue. We learned that the fracture was pretty major, and he had a severe traumatic brain injury.


Our son Will, recovering from his fall in the Riley pediatric intensive care unit

When we finally made it to the hospital, they had already taken Will into the operating room, so we did not yet have the opportunity to see him. That was a very difficult wait. My parents and my dear friend Nancy (the friend Will was staying with) were there before we arrived. We waited and waited…waited and waited…and waited…and waited. Finally, an hour-and-a-half later, we were taken to see our dear little Will. What a difficult moment it was.

It was not easy to see our child laying a hospital bed, appearing so foreign to us, with tubes and wires going every which way. This was not our alive, alert, charismatic child we left the previous day. Tom and I held each other so tight. I rubbed Will’s arm and mentioned encouraging words and asked him to be strong.

Will remained in the ICU for 17 days. They kept him in a medically induced coma for 13 days as the swelling went down. Will spent the rest of the 49 days in rehab in Riley’s pediatric rehabilitation unit, where he had to relearn how to breathe, eat, drink, talk, use his hands, walk, and so on.


Fast forward now to today, in the spring of 2014, and Will has made such miraculous progress! He is finishing up second grade, and he is able to communicate just like other kids and go about daily tasks with no physical assistance. Physically, you cannot tell he ever had an accident. He is doing very well socially.

The challenges that Will continues to face now are due to the permanent damage sustained from his fall, mostly to the front of his brain. It is the part of the brain responsible for emotional management and processing. He is very easily distracted, and can have trouble remembering things or managing his emotions.

While the future still poses learning and behavioral challenges, we are so grateful that we are blessed with Will in our lives. Will has a terrific personality and has such a great heart. He has so much to offer the world and God has big plans for him yet.


The decisions that the Riley doctors and nurses made early on after Will’s injury are the reason Will is with us today. Those difficult decisions saved Will’s life and allowed for his miraculous recovery. When we were at Riley, we were so well taken care of. The employees and volunteers at Riley became our extended family for those 49 days.

We love Riley! We hope others will join us in the Patriot Challenge and other Team Riley events to continue supporting the hospital that saved our son’s life.

Click here to learn more about joining Team Riley for the Patriot Challenge. The three-mile, family-friendly obstacle course mud run at Lucas Oil Raceway Park on July 5, 2014, honors America’s heroes.

Riley receives the net proceeds of the event, and each participant can also donate funds on the registration page towards Riley.

You can also create your own Team Riley fundraising page to raise additional funds.

Marcy Renken, Riley Parent

Marcy and her husband Tom are Riley parents and Army veterans who live in Indianapolis with their three sons. Marcy works as a realtor, and in her spare time enjoys playing trumpet with the Carmel Symphony Orchestra and the Circle City Sidewalk Stompers Clown Band. She and Tom also serve as cantors and lead a marriage ministry at their church, Our Lady of the Greenwood.

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