Riley and his mom, Terri. Riley uses special glasses to see correctly due to brain damage he suffered as a baby.
BAY COUNTY, MI (WNEM) -
A Mid-Michigan boy suffering from a variety of ailments - allegedly because abuse as a baby - is seeking your help to put him over the top in the running for a new mobility van.
Riley Van Wert is an 8-year-old boy who was born perfectly healthy. When he was 32 days old, he was airlifted from Bay City to Mott's Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor and given 24 hours to live.
Riley's adoptive mother, Terri Van Wert, says his injuries were all sustained from abuse.
"He suffered malnutrition, failure to thrive, three brain injuries of different ages, broken left arm, broken ribs, broken pelvic, glaucoma, seizures from the brain injuries, a stroke, congestive heart failure and several bruises," said Terri. "He was perfectly fine on his 2-week check up. So, somebody beat him to near death from 2 weeks old to 32 days old."
"I was a foster parent and received the call to take his sister, who was 20 months old at the time," continued Terri. "They informed me that she had a baby brother that was not expected to survive. Two weeks later, I received the phone call asking if I would take him. I was shocked, he was not suspected to live. I paused for a brief moment and agreed to take him in. I could not give up on him. God kept him alive for a reason."
Terri then went to Ann Arbor to be trained on inserting Riley's feeding tube because he was not eating by mouth. Then, one week later she brought him home from the hospital. Terri says he was a strong-willed little boy to survive all of that trauma and has made significant progress in the eight years since.
"I can't count how many surgeries he's had, but off the top of my head I would have to say 30, easily," said Terri. "He suffers now from gastrointestinal issues, his stomach and esophagus had to be permanently disconnected because he could not keep anything down [due to his brain injuries]."
Riley also continues to fight battles against his cerebral palsy, seizure disorders, brain damage and physical disabilities.
"He does not walk, he butt scoots," said Terri. "He is making significant progress daily. He is more cognitive aware than physically, his left side is the side that is affected by the cerebral palsy."
Terri told TV5 Riley's medical specialists cannot believe the progress he has made.
"They have not ever seen this kind of progress with the brain injuries that he sustained," said Terri. "I adopted Riley and his two siblings. He is now weighing 69 pounds and thankfully continuing to grow."
Riley's growth as a boy has made transporting him hard for his adoptive family.
"He is such an inspiration, and melts the hearts of all [who meet him]," says Terri.
Terri says nobody was held accountable for Riley's injuries. Parental rights were terminated on him and his two sisters, ages 7 and 9, whom Terri also adopted.
"It is getting very hard to get him in and out the vehicles," explained Terri. "I am not working and my fiance is disabled too. I am fearing that we may injure him trying to put him in and out of the vehicle."
To vote for Riley in the Mobility Awareness Month Handicap Accessible Van contest, click here.
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