Ask 9-year-old Carter Swathwood what he remembers about his six-day stay at Riley Hospital for Children and he’ll likely recount dinners of spaghetti and days spent watching TV surrounded by toys.

His parents, Jon and Melissa Swathwood, however, have more sobering memories of that week in 2009 when their 5-year-old son was rushed by helicopter from West Lafayette to Riley’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit suffering from H1N1 and respiratory failure.

“He was wearing oxygen and had an IV. We had to be in full gowns, masks and gloves at all times,” Melissa recalls. “The machine they were using to help him breathe wasn’t working well enough, so they switched him to another, which was one step away from having to intubate. Luckily, that worked.”

Four years later, Carter is a typical fourth-grader, tackling on the football field and gearing up for travel baseball. But drawing from his experience this Riley Champion has developed a passion for giving back, raising more than $5,700 for Riley Children’s Foundation through the Purdue University Dance Marathon.

“That’s a lot!” Carter exclaims when his mom reveals the most recent tally. “Since Riley helped me stay healthy, I want to help the kids who are there now.”

The Swathwood family has become a staple at community events, selling lemonade, bubbles and bracelets for Riley. Last year, they experienced their first Purdue University Dance Marathon.

“It was absolutely unbelievable. The emphasis they put on the kids and the families was just overwhelming,” said Melissa, who works as a secretary at Purdue’s School of Nursing. “When we left, Carter said, ‘Mom, we have to come back every year, but next year we have to raise money!’”

Carter was invited on stage during this year’s PUDM to share his story. He needed his mom’s help to recount the details, but he was excited to inspire others and, of course, to raise more money for Riley.

“You get to tell your story to a lot of other people,” Melissa explained, reassuring her son. “And when people hear that you were so sick and you got better, it gives them hope that if something happens, that it will be OK. They’re not alone; there is hope out there.”

 

In This Section

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