Ryan Andrew Kaiser Memorial Foundation
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December 16th 1996, Lauren and Andy are expecting their first child at Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank New Jersey. Ryan was born at 2:23 a.m. just like millions of other babies every year, a seemingly healthy little boy. Five hours passed before the horrible news was delivered. Ryan was thought to have a complex heart ailment, and we needed to find him the best help possible right away. We knew it was bad when the hospital suggested that we call a Priest. After being briefed on several hospitals and the surgical teams at each, we decided on Deborah Heart and Lung Center and left Riverview hospital at 10 a.m., just seven hours after Ryan was born.

Ryan was diagnosed with Complex Congenital Heart Disease (CHD). He had several unexplained heart anomalies that included Dextrocardia, Hypoplastic right ventricle, a ventricular septal defect, (VSD) and transposition of the great arteries. The surgical team advised us that Ryan had a very complicated heart ailment that required three open-heart surgeries, a two-year process that would require long stays at the hospital. We had a very capable medical team with vast experience in the care of kids with heart problems. A proven medical repair was suggested that, with a great deal of skill and luck, would help Ryan to lead a normal life.

The next two years were a roller coaster of fear, faith, family and hope. Ryan was scheduled for three open-heart surgeries at the age of ten days old, four months and 22 months. Each surgery required a two-week stay at the hospital. Lauren and I stayed with Ryan every day, and thankfully had lodging on the hospital grounds.

We came out on the other side with Ryan stunning the doctors at every turn. He survived through so many ridiculous medical obstacles, always being a good patient. His surgeries made corrections that would allow Ryan to live a very normal life. We left the hospital for the final time feeling elated that we beat the odds, and Ryan was coming home for good! (The survival rates of this type of surgery are actually pretty encouraging, although the risk of death in any open-heart surgery, child or adult is real).

Ryan was two years old now, with no signs of any medical problems. He was on a daily regimen of medicines to help his body adapt, but he was otherwise a normal healthy little boy. He had no signs of his past, and we enjoyed watching him grow into a terrific, fun, happy and intelligent little boy. Our lives had been enriched, and we were thankful for our little tough guy!

Like all kids, he grew up so fast, by the time he was three, he had a baby brother Jack. Ryan was a great big brother, he played with and taught Jack so much, and what better a teacher. Ryan had manners, grace, charisma and incredible intelligence of all things.

His math skills were impressive. I know we are proud parents, but he understood adding, subtracting, division, multiplication and some number sets. His pre-school teacher told me he was the smartest kid she has taught, and that we should consider moving him up a grade. I thanked her, and joked that she must compliment all parents that way! A few months after that when Ryan learned the alphabet backwards; I started to really consider what his teacher said.

It was great to see Jack and Ryan play together, they had motorized cars they drove around our house with reckless abandon. They were bumper car champs. We traveled a lot with the boys, they learned to swim together, and snow-ski together. Ryan even got to fly a small plane with his Dad, while Jack slept in the back.

Ryan was six now and Jack was three. May 17, 2002 was the day that the boys got a new addition to the family, Jamie Kirby Kaiser was born, our first girl. What a thrill for us, healthy and beautiful, we felt that Jamie rounded out our family. The boys loved her, and planned together to destroy all future baby dolls of hers. Ryan called Jamie, Jamie princess baby.

During Christmas 2002, I made a toast to the year past, and those ahead. I told my family that I felt I was in the Sweet Spot in life. Lauren and I recognized how much we had been through, and how we completely appreciated spending Christmas with our three children. Ryan's medical problems taught us not to take anything for granted. Looking at him this holiday season, he looked strong and healthy, and seemed years removed from any life threatening problems. His doctors agreed too that Ryan was doing incredibly well.

One month later, on January 25, 2003, Ryan died suddenly and very unexpectedly.

The doctors concluded that he may have had an aneurysm, or that the electric impulse in the heart simply stopped due to the nature of his heart problem.

Ryan inspired us every day of his life. He was brave through so many obstacles without ever complaining. He was passionately interested in so many unusual things like wolves, whales, pirates, owls, the planets, fishing and karate. When he was interested in something he would soak up all the information on the subject just like a sponge. He made the simplest things more fun and got our whole family involved in his interests.