When Madison Riley counts to 5 before going into surgery, the last person she sees is the same person she sees when it’s all done – Ron Tharp, a certified registered nurse anesthetist at Akron Children’s Hospital.
Some may think this is coincidence, but for the Riley family, having Uncle Ron – as Madison calls him – by her side is a calculated matter of trust.
“When I go in for my surgeries I’m not scared because I trust Uncle Ron to take care of me,” said Madison. “He’s always there when I wake up. I like that.”
Madison, now 8, has been coming to Akron Children’s since she was 4 months old for a number of surgeries, ranging from her first for severe reflux to her latest bladder reconstruction.
“Madison is number 5 of our 7 children so we thought we had seen it all,” said Shannon Riley, Madison’s mom. “The idea of her having surgery, at such a young age, was something very new to us; it was very frightening.”
Sensing their fears, Dr. Daniel McMahon, director of urology at Akron Children’s, encouraged the family to meet with Tharp before Madison’s first surgery so they could ask questions and better understand the process.
“We already knew we had the best surgeon with Dr. McMahon, and after meeting Ron, we felt Madison couldn’t be in better hands than with the 2 of them together,” said Ted Riley, Madison’s dad.
Madison has undergone 5 surgeries at Akron Children’s, with her latest being one of the most intense.
Her bladder reconstruction surgery took 3 hours and had the potential to be painful due to a large amount of scar tissue build up. Scheduling the surgery was difficult, but Tharp made it easy by offering to come in on his day off when it appeared to be the only day Madison could have surgery.
“We’re to the point where we won’t schedule a surgery unless Ron can be there,” said Shannon. “It’s comforting for us and Madison to know there is a familiar face by her side through all of her different surgeries.”
“I love my doctors and nurses, but Uncle Ron is like my friend,” she said. “I’m really comfortable with him beside me.”
The special connection Madison has with Tharp has helped ease the worries the Riley family feels when they hear the word surgery.
“Ron is a major reason why we keep coming back to and recommending Children’s,” said Shannon. “I trust him with my life, my daughter’s life.
As for Tharp, he’s humble about his impact on Madison’s surgeries. Instead, he shifts the focus to the skilled doctors who perform the surgeries and the brave little girl who undergoes them.
“It makes me feel good to know that I provide comfort to a family like Madison’s who have been through so many surgeries,” Tharp said. “Madison is a sweet girl. She’s beautiful…she could be on the cover of a magazine!”
Words spoken like a true uncle.