When Evan Meade shakes your hand and smiles, you see the very picture of a strong, healthy American teenager. The Franklin Community High School senior is getting ready to suit up with his football team for a big game this weekend.
Then he shows you photos from one year ago. A frail shadow of a boy lies in a bed. 140 pounds. No eyebrows. Translucent skin. Your eyes involuntarily dart from the shocking photos back to the dark-haired young man sitting before you. It is impossible to believe this is the same person. “They say I probably shouldn’t have made it,” Evan confides.
Evan’s dramatic journey began in January of 2010. He developed sudden body aches and an upset stomach. He and his family suspected the flu. Blood work at the doctor’s office showed otherwise. Evan had acute myeloid leukemia.
Evan’s mother, Patty, will never forget the day her son heard his diagnosis. “This big six foot boy lying in this bed was looking up at us with tears in his eyes and he said, ‘Am I gonna die?’”
But Evan’s oncologist at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health, Dr. Robert Fallon, offered hope. “He told me not to worry because I was going to be back on the football field eventually,” Evan said.
It turned out leukemia cells were in 97% of Evan’s bloodstream. He began chemotherapy the same evening. Two days later, all the toxins released by the dying cancer cells began causing his organs to fail. Evan spent 36 days in an induced coma before getting well enough for more chemotherapy. He received five courses in a nine-month time period. Thanks to bonds with staff and other families, Riley became home for the Meades.
“We cried, they held us in the hallway,” Patty said. “They were our family. They still are our family. The bonds are just unreal.”
Today Evan is cancer-free and back to a healthy 220 lbs. He helped organize a dance marathon at his school, raising $12,000 dollars for the Riley Children’s Foundation, and has spoken at more than a dozen other dance marathons across the state. He spearheaded a “Bleed 4 Meade: Sack Leukemia” blood drive at Lucas Oil Stadium, where donors also signed up for the national bone marrow registry. And Evan continues to mentor young cancer patients. It’s all his way of showing his gratitude to Riley staff and supporters.
“I don’t think ‘thank you’ is near enough,” Evan says, struggling for words. He says he owes his life to God and his doctors. “They are the reason I’m still here today.”
His mother agrees. Her eyes fill with tears when she explains what Riley means to her.
“They saved my boy. You know? They gave me back Evan.”
Your Impact on the Riley Relief Fund June 2, 2020
We put out the call that Riley Hospital for Children needed help during the COVID pandemic and you answered. Find out how your donations impacted Riley kids, their families, and hospital staff.×
Nurses Week 2020 May 7, 2020
A heartfelt thank you to the nurses at Riley Hosptial for Children as we celebrate Nurses Week!×
Waiting for Two Miracles April 27, 2020
Riley mom Amie Hastings lost her job due to the coronavirus pandemic. Your donations to the Riley Relief Fund provides emergency assistance to Riley families during the coronavirus crisis. It also supports Riley program and team member needs, and gives doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals flexibility as they respond to the evolving healthcare crisis.×
Happy Birthday, Teddy! April 16, 2020
Riley kid Giancarlo "Teddy" Gomez celebrates his eighth birthday at Riley Hospital for Children. Please join us in wishing him a Happy Birthday!×
A Piece of Riley June 27, 2019
I am the Riley Wagon. I mean a lot of things to different people. I'm also a way for donors, like the Burr family, to give back to Riley Hospital for Children.×
Be the Star You Are May 22, 2019
Check out this behind the scenes look at the 2019 Riley Cancer Center Prom.×
Meet Rowan Breyts March 19, 2019
A baby dies in Indiana about every 14 hours. Rowan Breyts was not one of them. However, he came dangerously close.×
Sheila and Jameson's Story December 19, 2018
Sheila Dolan shares how the donor-funded Riley Maternity and Newborn Health team saved her life, and her son’s life.×
Riley Leadership Message December 19, 2018
Hear from Riley leadership about supporting Be the Hope NOW: The Campaign for Kids.×
Kennedy's Story: How Family Support Helps December 19, 2018
Watch the Strayer Family's story about their Riley journey.×