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For the Strayers, Riley means hope and chances

December 20, 2021

When Josh and Heather Strayer learned their daughter, Kennedy, would be born with a significant heart defect, they knew they had a long road ahead of them. Their first step? Moving the whole family from Arizona to Indianapolis so Kennedy could receive care at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health.

The Strayers and the world-renowned Riley Heart Center team carefully developed a birth plan to ensure Kennedy would immediately get the care she needed. Then, at just one-week old, she had her first in a series of heart surgeries.

While Kennedy’s heart condition was being managed, the Strayers also had their older daughter, Bailey, with them. The donor-supported Child Life team at Riley helped make sure Bailey was looked after and taught her about Kennedy’s medical issues.

That allowed Josh and Heather critical bonding time with Kennedy, time to talk to her doctors, and just time to cry if they needed without worrying about how that would impact Bailey.

When Kennedy came back to Riley for her third surgery, she was older and understood more of what was going on. Again, enter the Child Life team. They helped prepare Kennedy for her surgery, making sure she knew what to expect and calming her fears.

The Social Work team at Riley also provided valuable support when the family prepared to leave the hospital for the first time. “They told me, we’re not going to let you out of here without knowing what she needs. We will teach you everything,” recalls Heather.

Today, because of the care and support of her Riley care team, Kennedy is a happy, vibrant little girl. She gets to play with her sister, learn to dance and just be a kid.

“Riley lifted up our whole family during our scariest moments,” says Heather. “For my family, Riley means hope and it means chances. It gave us hope at a time when we didn’t know what to expect.”