If you saw Ryleigh LaRocque at the mall with her family, you’d never guess that the smiling 12-year-old wearing zebra-striped sunglasses had been hospitalized more than 100 times.
Born with a twisted intestine and short gut syndrome, Ryleigh underwent multiple surgeries at Baystate Children’s Hospital, including one that saved her life. “We’d go from ground zero in emotional pain to the joy of making it to her next birthday,” Ryleigh’s mom, Jill LaRocque, says
SHORT GUT SYNDROME
People with short gut syndrome have a shortened small intestine and their bodies can’t absorb enough nutrients from the food they eat. Ryleigh’s body
and immune system were weakened and to get the nutrition she needed, she relied on a feeding tube into her stomach.
THE FUN UNCLE WHO OPERATES
“She’s an amazing little girl to have had all the hospitalizations she required and still have a great outlook on life,” says Dr. Kevin Moriarty, the pediatric surgeon who cared for her since her first surgery at five days old.
“Ryleigh practically lived at Baystate Children’s Hospital for the first three years of her life. She trusts and loves Dr. Moriarty and thinks of him as a fun uncle who operates,” Jill says.
It’s hard to describe how happy Ryleigh and her family were when, this summer, she had her last surgery and her feeding tube was removed. It was life-changing in big and small ways. Among other things, Ryleigh was excited to finally be able to wear a two-piece bathing suit, something most girls her age don’t think twice about. “We went shopping and got her one right away!” Jill said.
A SWEET THANK YOU TO DR. SMARTIE
During the years Dr. Moriarty cared for Ryleigh, he saw her grow up and remembers her learning to read and write. When she was younger, she couldn’t pronounce Dr. Moriarty’s name and started calling him Dr. Smartie instead so it was perfect that after her last surgery this summer, she gave Dr. Moriarty a thank-you poem and a bag of Smarties candies.
“We are so thankful to Dr. Moriarty and the whole team at Baystate Children’s Hospital,” Jill said. She and her husband (also named Kevin) trusted Dr. Moriarty from the moment they met him. “Dr. Moriarty has the ability to combine his medical expertise with kindness and the wish for his patients to be healthy and thrive,” Jill said. “You don’t learn that in medical school. That’s why Dr. Moriarty’s different.”
Ryleigh sums up her connection to her care providers best by referring to Baystate Children’s Hospital as “my hospital.” When she grows up, she hopes to become a nurse and help people the way her caregivers at Baystate Children’s Hospital helped her. For now, she loves hanging out with her 14-year-old sister, Sydney, playing with her puppy and Facetiming her friends.