Unstoppable. That’s the perfect word to describe Addyson Wooldridge. The 9-year-old from Lafayette, Ind., is a cheerleader, a “dance-aholic” and a tennis-lover. She is even an honorary member of the Purdue University Tennis Team. This kid lets nothing stand in her way. “She is sassy and outgoing. You certainly know she’s in the room,” says her mom, Hope Wooldridge.
Addyson’s journey has not been an easy one. She was born with spina bifida, which contributed to other serious complications including a neurogenic bladder, clubbed feet and hydrocephalus, a condition which causes fluid build-up in the head. Addyson has endured seven surgeries in the past nine years. She is treated by a team of specialists at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health. “A few years ago, Addyson had a major bladder surgery and was hospitalized for a week,” says Hope. “The doctors, nurses and Child Life Specialists made all the difference. They treated her like a person, not just a sick child. They talked to her, not at her. That is huge.”
Addyson and her family have a special place in their hearts for Riley Pediatric Urologist Richard Rink, M.D., and his team. “They regularly check on her and include her in discussions about her condition,” says Hope. “They help her understand very complicated medical issues. They are just fantastic.” Riley Pediatric Neurosurgeon Laurie Ackerman, M.D., performed emergency surgery on Addyson and was inspired by her strength and tenacity. “She is a delightful girl with a beautiful family. It is wonderful to hear how well she is doing and all they give back to Riley,” Dr. Ackerman says.
Addyson, her brother Leo and her parents are extremely involved with Riley Dance Marathons across Indiana, with Addyson landing among the top 500 fundraisers for the entire statewide program last year. “I have done about 40 dance marathons,” says Addyson. “I love to help other kids and this is how I can do it.” The family loves sharing her story to raise awareness and funds for Riley. So far they have raised enough to add customized license plates to two red wagons in the Riley fleet which are used to transport patients. “I am so proud that she can and wants to use her story for good,” Hope said. “It is proof that this is our purpose.”
“I am so thankful for Riley,” Addyson said. “I always want to give back and fight for the kids who can’t fight for themselves. It’s just what I was meant to do.”