From the outside Riley Epstein might look like a typical high school student, but I can assure you that she is anything but typical. Riley has fought and overcome a mountain of odds. She was born with Pulmonary Hypoplasia and a Giant Omphalocele, which involves the stomach, liver and intestines being outside the body. She remained hospitalized for five months on a ventilator and feeding tube. She stayed on a ventilator until the age of two. Riley has had multiple surgeries: abdomen reconstruction, g-button, trach closure, scoliosis surgery, and cochlear implant surgery. She was also hospitalized for pneumonia. Riley has a profound hearing loss due to the antibiotics she received in the NICU. Riley also had a hole in her heart and irregular heartbeat. She amazes me with how far she has come and how hard she has fought.
She started out school in our cluster program for D/HH students at Memorial Parkway Elementary School. She learned in a total communication environment, using both sign and oral English. With the help of her fabulous speech therapist and teachers, she was able to develop enough auditory/oral skills to go back to her home campus of Seven Lakes Junior High in the sixth grade. She is currently at Seven Lakes High School where she has matured into a stylish, thoughtful, charismatic young lady (as well as a being a coffee drinker and boot collector-two very important passions). She is an effective advocate and knows what she needs to be successful. She is an avid country music fan and hopes to work in the country music industry at some point in her life. To enhance her ability to listen to music and further her chance of making it a career, Riley has advocated to have a second implant surgery which will take place this summer. She knows it will be a lot of hard work to "retrain" her ear to hear again, but she is ready for it. She has been in choir in the past. She is currently a member of the photography club and has taken photography classes. She is also very active in the school's Ag/FFA programs. She was asked to participate in horse judging this year for which she did a lot of traveling to outside districts. She participated in Katy's own Special Needs Rodeo as well. Her goals for next year include guitar lessons and raising an animal for FFA.
As you can see, Riley is quite an amazing young woman. Her determination to live a full and active life is inspiring!