When Riley was born, she weighed a little more than a pound—1.5 pounds, to be exact. Born prematurely on November 4, 2012, at almost 25 weeks, she was brought to Connecticut Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). After five months in the NICU—first in Farmington and then in Hartford—she was transferred to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, where she met her future family in May 2013.

Riley’s medical challenges were extensive, but so was the love of her foster parents, Kim and Jacqueline, who formally adopted her in April 2014. “Once we decided to go through with the adoption, we lived in the PICU,” Jacqueline recalls. “We spent nights training for medical emergencies and learning how to resuscitate her.”

In October 2013, after spending the first 11 months of her life on a ventilator and feeding tube that kept her alive, Riley was finally able to go home, where she joined her 7-year-old brother, Cooper. By that point, she weighed 9 pounds, a little bigger than the average newborn. “It was the extraordinary care she received at Connecticut Children’s that enabled her to learn how to breathe on her own and begin to eat by mouth before being discharged,” Jacqueline says.

In May 2016, Riley underwent reconstruction surgery to rebuild her trachea (windpipe) from one of her ribs. She also had her feeding tube removed and underwent eye surgery. Connecticut Children’s specialists from Pulmonary Medicine; Gastroenterology; Infectious Disease; Ear, Nose & Throat; and General Surgery have all been involved in her care, and she continues to see her pulmonologist every three months.

Today, Riley is an active 7-year-old who participates in gymnastics twice a week and loves to play with dolls, color and play dress-up. A social first-grader, she also loves school and, at least for now, would like to be a nurse when she grows up. “She’s a thriving little girl,” Kim says.