Who says miracles and magic aren’t real? Just ask 2-year-old “wizard” Riley Osborn and her parents.
From the day she was born – at 23 weeks, 6 days and weighing just a pound and a half – Riley has been proving her doubters wrong at every step – literally.
Riley spent the first 130 days of her life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The difficult and early delivery led to a brain bleed and cerebral palsy diagnosis, and it had clinicians managing the Osborns’ expectations that their baby may end up blind, deaf and unable to talk, walk or eat.
Adding to the Osborns’ pain was that they lost Riley’s twin, Finley, a few hours after delivery.
“Doctors told us Finley fought really hard to have a chance to meet us,” Megan Osborn said. “After she passed, Riley’s numbers really crashed.”
The next few days would be critical, doctors said, and there was a chance she may not make it through the weekend.
Having dreamed of reading together, Josh Osborn, Riley’s father, read her the book Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, a story about a boy who faced nearly impossible odds and lived. Coincidentally, Riley started improving.
“They were shocked when she made it through the weekend, and she kept surprising us week after week from there,” Megan said.
In a nod to a reference about the fictional boy wizard they read about that weekend, the Osborns started calling Riley “the girl who lived.”
April is National Occupational Therapy Month, and Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley occupational therapist Nancy Hanek has been helping Riley, of Columbiana, achieve milestones since she was in the NICU.
“We come for Riley, but we also come for me, too, because they’re so encouraging,” said Riley’s mother Megan Osborn. “We wouldn’t be where we are without the therapists.”
Hanek works with Riley on a weekly basis to help her increase strength, and improve her fine motor and visual motor skills. She has Riley working with grasping and positioning puzzle pieces, and using 2 hands to accomplish tasks like reaching above her head to place a basketball through a hoop. In-between therapy sessions she gives Riley’s parents homework to continue her development.
“Nancy told us early on if we treat her like any other kid she’s going to rise to the occasion, and that just changed everything for us,” Osborn said.
Hanek has seen marked improvement in how Riley has progressed in a relatively short time.
“For a kid, a toddler’s job is to play, and we do a lot of activities around play,” Hanek said. “Riley’s parents are great at whatever we ask them to do, and she’s come a very long way with her therapy.”
In the past few months her walking has greatly improved, to the point where she’s taken as many as 8 steps at one time. And who knows what she’s capable of next.
“Early on I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be awesome to see her walking?” Osborn said. “Now I hope she can run someday. And read. I want to be a parent that doesn’t hold her back. I want her to believe she can do anything. Maybe even inspire other kids.”
She’s already inspiring other children. And adults.
As Harry Potter’s headmaster, Professor Dumbledoor, said in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one remembers to turn on the light.”