Caleb and Lydia Dailey
The Dailey family’s Riley journey began hundreds of miles from their home in Bluffton, Ind.
It was December 2010 when their van was broadsided by a grain truck in Minnesota. Dad Ben and mom Jackie weren’t badly hurt, but Caleb, 4, and Lydia, 2, suffered serious head injuries. “Lydia was not supposed to make it,” Ben remembers. “Even after she made it through the night, they said she may never breathe or blink on her own again.”
In the next week, Lydia underwent two surgeries—including one to remove a part of her skull to allow her brain to swell—and both siblings were deemed stable enough to be moved back to Indiana. “Riley [Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health] is where we wanted to go,” Jackie recalls. “Because Riley is strictly a children’s hospital, we knew Caleb and Lydia would get the best care.”
After a medical flight to Indianapolis, Lydia went to Riley’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), while Caleb started at Riley and then moved to IU Methodist Hospital for rehabilitation.
Ben and Jackie found comfort in the warm welcome at Riley, from the detail-oriented staff to the gifts that greeted the children. As Christmas approached, they were even able to let Caleb visit his sister. “He still had his feeding tube in, and he wasn’t supposed to leave the hospital, but they made an exception,” Ben says. “It was the first time we’d been together as a family since the accident.”
Another emotional moment came that day when Jackie, who wasn’t able to touch Lydia much for fear of over-stimulating her recovering brain, was asked to hold her daughter as nurses changed the bedding. “It did my heart good to be able to finally hold her again,” Jackie remembers.
Three weeks after the crash, Riley pediatric neurosurgeon Joel Boaz, M.D., repaired Lydia’s skull. Caleb was discharged shortly after, and Lydia finished rehab in early February.
More than four years later, Caleb, 9, is an inquisitive third-grader who loves to read, and Lydia, 7, is loving kindergarten and making great strides in outpatient therapy. Ben and Jackie, who live and work in Wells County, Ind., now serve as Riley County Leaders for Riley Children’s Foundation. They enjoy championing the school fundraising program Kids Caring & Sharing.
“It is wonderful to be able to advocate for Riley and to be able to tell other parents, ‘Yes, this really is the place,’” Jackie says. “‘It really is as awesome as people say it is.’”