MANCHESTER, Tenn. (WKRN) —The hospital is not where Clay Riddle would prefer to be, but he and his mom Katy make the most of it.
They color and tell jokes while Clay receives the monthly infusion at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt that helps him be an active 5-year-old.
“On my first time into a base, I got to third base, but I got tagged out into home,” Clay reminisced about his athletic achievements.
Clay is rounding the T-ball bases now, but as a toddler, that would have been unfathomable.
“He wasn’t able to run, he wasn’t able to walk up the steps unassisted,” said Clay’s mom Katy Riddle.
Physical therapy didn’t help. Then their pediatrician noticed Clay was pale and ran some tests.
“A normal person has a hemoglobin level of around 10 to 14 and his was 2.9, so he was losing all of this blood,” said Riddle.
But they still didn’t have an answer.
“There was a bone marrow biopsy, they thought it might be cancer,” said Riddle.
“There were a lot of tests and nothing was coming back, but we said, ‘You know what? His diapers have always been kinda weird.'”
That’s when it clicked. After a scope exam, Clay was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at just two years old.
“He has been through some rough stuff, but he is the most joyous kid,” said Riddle. “He’s super happy, super silly, super funny and he inspires me to take the challenges in life and make the best of them.”
“He is one of my favorite patients to see just because he has so much energy. We’ve seen that transition from clinging to his parents when he’s coming to these appointments he’s afraid, to being this bubbly, energetic, big-smile kid that comes to our office and really lightens up the entire place,” said Dr. Dedrick Moulton, Director of the Pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease Clinic at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital.
Although more common in adults, Moulton said 20% of people with Crohn’s disease are diagnosed before age 18. The inflammatory bowel disease can be debilitating.
“Really severe abdominal pain, bloody stools; it can even have other effects on different parts of their bodies,” said Dr. Moulton. “What’s unique for children, is that it can affect their growth and development.”
There is no cure for Crohn’s or colitis, but Clay is responding well to the biologic drug Remicade, despite some side effects.
“Like any parent, I would do anything to trade places. I wish it was me. I wish it was my pain; I wish this was me in this chair,” said Riddle. “The things that we’ve gone through, I would not wish on anybody, but it has given me such a beautiful perspective on what’s important.”
Clay has a favorite super hero.
“Black Panther!” he exclaims.
But his mom knows, heroes don’t only star in movies.
“Clay…you’re my hero. You know that?” she tells him.
News 2’s parent company, Nexstar Media Group, celebrates its Founder’s Day each year by giving back. News 2 has chosen the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation for this year’s service project.
Katy says the foundation has provided her a connection to other parents who can relate and help her navigate Clay’s condition. The foundation also funds research to work toward finding a cure.
News 2 is raising money by participating in the Take Steps walk Saturday, June 22 in Nashville.
To donate to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, click here.