The Story Behind the Wagon on our Wheels

November 7, 2016
Topics: Donors, NICU (Newborn Intensive Care Unit)

tricia rife image
A Riley License Plate

Growing up, some family friends had this license plate with an interesting logo.

I never really knew much about the little kid sitting in the red wagon–just that it was a “special plate” outside of the regular Indiana plates my family always purchased for our vehicles.

I later learned those friends had a “Riley baby,” their son, who was treated there years ago, even though we all lived far away in Vincennes. Riley Hospital for Children is the only comprehensive children’s hospital in Indiana and one of the best in the country.

I married into a family of “Riley plates.” When Adam and I began dating, he had Riley plates, and so did his parents and grandparents. After we married, we just naturally kept those same Riley plates and I thought, “Oh, cool. Yeah, I’m happy to support such a phenomenal hospital.”

Little did I know just how much those plates would come to represent for my little family.

Two years into marriage, I became a Riley mom. Our little boy, Andrew, was born 10 weeks early with a very serious birth defect—an unconnected esophagus. Even though we live in Indianapolis, we were visiting family in Southern Indiana when I went into preterm labor, and he was born in Evansville. Andrew had medical complications, and needed to be life-lined to Riley within hours of his birth. 


That word has become a common one in our language. Not only did we pretty much live there for three months in 2014 during Andrew’s NICU stay, we have also returned regularly for surgeries, procedures, and doctor/clinic appointments. Although the visits have lessened in two years’ time, Riley is where doctors and nurses saved our baby’s life.

Riley is where I learned not to take life for granted.

Riley is where I spent most of the first few months of my son’s life, grieving at what I wished had been a different start for him, for us.

Riley is where I learned to be grateful because I left there with my son, who survived–and some other NICU parents did not.

Riley is where I met some pretty amazing doctors, nurses, and support staff who are still in our lives today and celebrate alongside me just how well Andrew is doing.

Riley is where my mama heart belongs because I’ll never, never forget the phenomenal experiences we’ve had there with such talented and caring personnel within the medical field. Many of these people are like family to us.

Riley is a second home to me.

I’ll always be a Riley mom, and my boy will always be a Riley baby. As long as we live, I will forever be a champion of this hospital because it gave me my greatest gift as a mom.

To learn more about how you can give back by having Riley plates, click here.

Tricia Rife

Tricia Rife was born in Vincennes, Ind., and now lives with her husband, Adam, and son, Andrew, in Indianapolis. She is a writer and editor at The Wesleyan Church Headquarters in Fishers, Ind., and enjoys reading, writing and editing, baking, good coffee, sweet tea, all things Disney, encouraging others and hearing their stories, and spending time with family.

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