Andrew Dys

From the Herald archives: Three-year-old shows resolve after brain surgery

Rock Hill's Riley Friddle, 3, plays with a toy car while leaning against a stuffed horse someone gave her while she was in the hospital. Riley underwent brain surgery June 20 to remove part of a tumor behind her eyes. Her ordeal brought an outpouring of prayers and support from many in the community.
Rock Hill's Riley Friddle, 3, plays with a toy car while leaning against a stuffed horse someone gave her while she was in the hospital. Riley underwent brain surgery June 20 to remove part of a tumor behind her eyes. Her ordeal brought an outpouring of prayers and support from many in the community.

Hope Street kept its promise. Rock Hill's Riley Friddle came home to Hope Street on Tuesday.

Tiny Riley, who turned 3 years old on July 2, underwent brain surgery June 20 to remove part of a tumor behind her eyes. The inches-long incision on the top of her head where the downy white hair is already growing back is her "badge of courage."

We should all be so courageous.

Riley spent hours on the operating table, where the story and photos of her strength and her parents resolve leading up to the surgery that ran in that June 20 edition of The Herald was plastered on the operating room wall.

The story brought Rock Hill church congregations together in prayer and the community checked her progress. Strangers would call or even stop at family friend Ann Brooks' business to get daily updates.

One couple, passing through York County on the way to New York on June 20, read the story over morning coffee and looked the Friddles up in the phone book, then left a message on the Friddle's answering machine.

"Even New York was praying for Riley," said Andrea, Riley's mother.

Riley spent the first 10 days in intensive care. Back in Rock Hill, family helped and cleaned, a neighbor cut the grass, while her mother and father, Todd, spent every day at her side. The Friddles slept in the hospital room and only came home Tuesday when their daughter came home.

During the hospital stay, Riley was the star of the Carolinas Medical Center children's ward, her mother said. People dropped off stuffed animals. Carolina Panthers Top Cats cheerleaders brought a jersey and pompoms. Doctors asked for autographs of her press clippings from The Herald.

The only wrench in the gears during the hospital stay in Charlotte was a Friddle camera turned up missing. The digital camera had daily update pictures and even pictures of Riley on stage, days before her surgery, with country stars Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. The camera hasn't been found, but Andrea Friddle and aunt Yvette Hix have faith it will be found.

"I hope those memories aren't lost forever," Hix said.

Already, Riley can throw a ball of putty. She can cry when she is tired, although her mother said medication to stop seizures has Riley sluggish.

And she sure can smile.

Riley, lover of Rock Hill's Shrimp Boat chicken with the crispy skin, got lucky when somebody delivered the deep-fried loot to the hospital. She ate anything not nailed down.

In three weeks, she gained five pounds.

"Eats like a horse," said Hicks. "She eats things she wouldn't touch before."

Riley is already hanging tight with her first cousin, Rebekah "Bekbek" Nix, who is more like a big sister.

It was Bekbek that smiled through the three weeks every day as the adults gnashed their teeth. A Bekbek visit to intensive care brought a kick from Riley that told the family Riley was coming back.

"I had to be strong for Riley," Bekbek said.

Rebekah Nix, Bekbek, is just 8 years old herself.

Courage.

Andrea Friddle even found one of those nameplates in the hospital gift shop. It said Riley means courage.

Now, the courage turns to recovery. So far, so good, is the prognosis, Andrea Friddle said, although the tumor was not all taken out. There will be more chemotherapy and radiation after Riley's brain heals, her mother said. Her parents have to go back to work -- Todd Friddle already went back Tuesday afternoon.

Now a community that found itself a tiny white-haired hero can say that its prayers were answered so far. The question is, do we have Riley's courage to stick with those prayers and ask for more?

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