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Child life helps Rylee through her Halloween health scare
October 14, 2021
Child life patient in hospital

Child life helps Rylee through her Halloween health scare

The day before Halloween 2019, 9-year-old Rylee came home from school with a terrible headache. It’s tradition for her extended family to host a Halloween party and she wanted to be sure not to miss it! She awoke the next day still not feeling well and decided not to attend school. By that evening she still felt badly but didn’t want her younger sister to miss the chance to trick-or-treat and attend the party, so Rylee stayed home to rest with her grandmother by her side.

Looking for answers, finding support at CHoR

What they thought was just a bad sinus infection turned out to be much more. The following day her mother, Crystal, noticed Rylee’s left eye was dilated while her right eye looked normal. This is the moment Crystal knew something was very wrong. Their family pediatrician referred them to CHoR where they explored migraines among other possible diagnoses. After seeking additional answers elsewhere, they returned to CHoR to see Dr. Silverstein who sent them immediately to the emergency department. Rylee was exhibiting symptoms including incredibly high pressure on her brain consistent with a brain tumor and needed immediate testing.  

Once admitted, Rylee initially felt afraid of the hospital and her surroundings, but it was our child life team that served as a calming source of relief and comfort to her. Child life specialists explained the tests that were being done and helped her understand what to expect. They stayed by her side, accompanying her through her MRI and lumbar puncture procedures.

Rylee experienced a terrible set back when her spinal cord collapsed following the lumbar puncture causing her to have to learn to walk again. Throughout her 10-day hospital stay, the child life team helped her through tough medical moments, and provided fun distractions at other times, decorating her patient room and walker, bringing craft activities to the bedside, playing games and keeping her company in her room. Despite her enduring feeling of fear, she kept a smile on her face thanks to her compassionate care team and devoted child life specialists.

Giving back to the child life program that helped her

Rilee at beach

Rylee shared her patient room alongside other families and from this experience decided she wanted to give back and help other kids facing hospital stays in the future. This desire to help others led her to start her own charity, “Rylee Smiles.” She, family and friends raise funds to purchase items for the child life program to help ensure another child’s stay can be as fun and comfortable as possible. While no brain tumor was found, Rylee continues to undergo many doctor appointments, therapy appointments and tests to help determine the exact cause of increased pressure on her brain, pseudotumor cerebi, and other health conditions. 

Visit any Richmond-area Spirit Halloween store and make a donation to support CHoR's child life program when you check out. Be sure to use coupon code DONATE21 to earn 10% off your total purchase and Spirit Halloween will donate an additional 10% of your total order back to your children’s hospital. Together, we can make Halloween and children's hospitals a little less scary for kids. www.spirithalloween.com #spiritofchildren

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