Friends gather to support ailing tot
July 18. 2014 10:40AM
Little Ryker Peterson tells his parents and brother often that he loves them. It’s one of the few things he can even say since contracting a rare central nervous system disease.
Ryker’s mother, Sarah Peterson, said she started to notice this past May that the 3 year old “wasn’t himself.” Initially, doctors diagnosed strep throat. But treatment didn’t seem to help. Ryker slept a lot and said he was cold. One day, he started running a fever with his chills. Within a few days, he fell over and couldn’t get back up.
“He couldn’t even crawl,” Sarah said. “He started to tip over when he started to crawl.”
Those symptoms prompted more detailed tests, including a spinal tap and an MRI, which showed that Ryker’s brain was covered in lesions. The tot was in the hospital for six days, and he couldn’t walk or talk. He received big doses of steroids and antibiotics.
“It was just a revolving door of doctors and specialists,” Sarah said.
The diagnosis was Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis, a disease causing inflammation in the brain or spinal cord. It can be caused by either a virus or bacteria.
Don Krantz of the Brandon American Legion is heading up plans for a benefit for Ryker, which will be held Saturday at the Valley Springs American Legion hall.
Krantz knows the family because he works with Ryker’s father, Ryan Peterson, at the South Dakota Army National Guard.
Before getting sick, Ryker was a “fun little boy, a real talkative little guy,” Krantz said.
Now, Sarah said, her son sometimes gets very frustrated and confused, and sometimes angry.
Sarah compares Ryker’s symptoms to the results of a traumatic brain injury.
According to the website of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, ADEM also can mimic symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis. Doctors don’t think Ryker has MS, though, and they predict he will recover, but the toddler continues taking medication and receiving physical and occupational therapy for his condition and will have regular check-ups.
“Nobody knows the future,” Sarah said.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website says long-term prognosis for individuals with ADEM is generally favorable.
Ryker has good days and bad.
“He doesn’t understand why he can’t do things he used to do,” Sarah said. Ryker’s big brother, James, 7, also gets frustrated, although Sarah said James is handling his brother’s illness better than she thought he might. “He said he wants the old Ryker back,” she said.
When friends suggested a benefit in Ryker’s honor, the Petersons initially were hesitant. But friends insisted it would be a small affair, a meal to show support. Benefit plans have grown, though, to include yard games, music provided by Jeff Shawd of Valley Springs, a silent auction, bake sale and matching funds by Modern Woodmen.
“It’s overwhelming, but we're so grateful for the people who are wanting to do this for us and show us this support, and I can’t even put it into words,” Sarah said.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Benefit for Ryker Peterson of Valley Springs
WHEN: Noon to 4 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Legion Hall, 615 Broadway Ave., Valley Springs
COST: Free-will offering