Riley Klim’s mom and dad were worried. They knew the little red-haired boy, not quite 2 years old, was seriously sick — but their local emergency department couldn’t figure out why.
“After 12 hours, they still didn’t know what was wrong with him and were going to send us home,” Riley’s father Mark Klim remembers. “He literally had 6 or 7 pounds of fluid on him, and it was like, ‘Oh, just follow up with your regular doctor.’”
The Moncks Corner, South Carolina, family did just that. Fortunately, that doctor recognized the fluid retention as a sign of a serious kidney problem. “He said, ‘Let me call MUSC right now. You guys need to head there as I call them,'” Mark Klim says. “If we didn’t have MUSC, who knows what might have happened.”
Twelve years later, Riley is living with nephrotic syndrome, a condition that damages the filtering part of the kidneys, causing too much protein to be lost from his blood into his urine. He has to be monitored and medicated, and has spent a lot of time in the hospital. But this week, he’ll return to MUSC Children’s Health for a different reason: to be named the local Champion for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals organization.
“When you think about how much they’ve helped me, it’s just right to give back to them,” Riley says.
The CMN raises money and awareness for children’s hospitals across the country, including MUSC Children’s Health and the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital, which is under construction and expected to open next year.
Riley will be introduced as a champion at 4 p.m. this Wednesday at the site of the new hospital at 3 Charleston Center Drive. He says he’s still learning about what he’ll do in his new role. “I’m going to be involved in a lot of events.”
Riley has already done a lot for the current and new hospitals, serving on the Youth Patient Advisory Council, visiting the construction site of the new hospital and appearing at fundraising and awareness events with MUSC supporters and leaders, including musician Darius Rucker and MUSC President David Cole. Becoming a CMN Champion kicks Riley’s support into an even higher gear.
Riley’s parents have known for years about his interest in making a difference in the world. His father remembers a moment from about seven years ago. “He told his pastor at church, ‘I really think God put this [kidney condition] in me to really help other people through it.' It was a touching moment, for sure. Eye opening.”
Riley’s mother Sharon Klim says he’s always been resilient, despite having a condition that can cause weight gain, fluid retention, high blood pressure, pain, blood clots, infection and kidney failure. “He’s definitely had some down moments, but he usually bounces back pretty quickly.”
Mark Klim agrees. “He’s like a 45-year-old in a 14-year-old body. I think his disease grew him up a little too fast, but he’s been around a lot of adults and tried to have fun with people. It’s been an experience for sure, but we try to make the best of it.”
Riley says it comes down to this: “My main thing is, I just love helping people. If I’m doing that, especially for kids, it’s awesome.”
Photo: Provided/Brennan Wesley