Owen George loves baseball and is a huge St. Louis Cardinals fan. Watching the players move inspires the 13-year-old, for whom movement has always been a challenge.
Owen’s mother, Mindy, was 20 weeks’ pregnant when she learned Owen had spina bifida, a condition in which a portion of the neural tube fails to develop or close properly, leading to defects in the spinal cord and backbone. Owen needed surgery immediately after birth. The family quickly connected with specialists at Riley Hospital for Children for continuing care.
At first, the family made frequent drives to Indianapolis from the Georges’ southern Indiana hometown of Newburgh. Then, a partnership formed between Deaconess Gateway Hospital and Riley Hospital. “Instead of a three-and-a-half to four-hour drive, we could just drive down the street,” Mindy explains.
Owen’s 19 surgeries have not deterred his young spirit. “The care that Riley has given Owen has also given him the confidence to do and try everything that the rest of his peers are doing, which is a testament to his positive outlook on life,” says Owen’s father, Art.
Owen has made it his mission to spread the word about acceptance and determination. He has an annual lemonade stand to raise money for the Easter Seals Rehab Center, and he is not shy about sharing his hopes and goals. “I want to be more independent, and eventually walk without canes,” he says.
The Riley Champion is looking forward to sharing his story this year to show others the importance of supporting Riley. “I see myself giving back to Riley by letting people know how good the hospital, staff and doctors are,” he says. “I’ll tell people what a happy place it is, and how they make you feel at home.”