Community rallies around Arizona girl scheduled for surgery for rare disease in Baltimore

A 10-year-old girl from the Phoenix area is now in Maryland, where she will undergo life-changing surgery on February 2.

On Feb. 1, Riley Saver and her family boarded a private jet, beginning their journey to a Baltimore hospital for emergency surgery.

Several nonprofit organizations, including the Armer Foundation for Children and Wings of Humanity, worked together to make the flight possible.

“It’s amazing. It’s huge. I’m so grateful. I wouldn’t have a chance to do it myself,” Riley’s mother, Meredith Stam, said.

Riley’s story began in 2021, when she started experiencing extreme pain in her leg. She was eventually diagnosed with Perthes disease.

According to the Johns Hopkins Medicine website, Perthes disease, also known as Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, is a rare hip condition that affects children under the age of 10, where the blood supply at the head of the femur is interrupted. This weakens the bone and can lead to multiple fractures. The bone is then taken up by the body, which can lead to complete collapse of the femoral head.

“Eventually the blood supply will return and the bone will reform,” the website states. “However, the bone can reform with a different shape than it had before. Because of this, degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis) can develop later in life.”

The cause is unknown, according to the website.

The heads of the organizations say they are happy to be able to help in this way.

“This little girl hasn’t thought about her surgery because she’s so excited to fly in a jet,” said Jennifer Armer of the Armer Children’s Foundation.

“Our motto is ‘saving children’s lives, one flight at a time’, but when we are able to make a day like this happen, it affects the whole family community, so it’s heartwarming to see that,” said Stan Strom of Wings of Humanity.

The hope is that with this next operation, Riley’s quality of life will be much better.

“It makes me feel loved,” Riley said. “I’m so grateful to everyone.”

“I’m just praying that she’s not in pain anymore, so hopefully the operation will,” Meredith said.

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