St. Charles Herald-Guide

Locals chip in to help young girl with leukemia

By Kyle Barnett - May 25, 2012

Kelly Richards and Tracie Landry first met at Hahnville High School where both graduated in 1995. The two were not married until years later after Tracie graduated with a Bachelorís degree in nursing from Louisiana State University and Kelly graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. Originally from Luling, the couple now live with their children in a community north of Seattle, Wash. due to Kellyís career as a Navy pilot.

Tracie Richards said her family has enjoyed the benefits of military life and have been able to experience living in different parts of the country with their eight-year-old son Evan and six-year-old daughter Rylie that they ordinarily would not have had a chance to see.

However, earlier this year Tracie began to notice Rylieís demeanor change and she had been sluggish for a few weeks.

"Something was really wrong," Tracie said. "For a few weeks I noticed she was complaining she was tired. She wasnít keeping up. Like when we would walk in the parking lot at the grocery store she was always trudging behind and she just looked pale. She had dark circles under her eyes."

Tracie first thought Rylieís change in demeanor was due to seasonal allergies.

"Itís spring here and itís beautiful," Tracie said. "We have flowers everywhere but the pollen count is real high. So I just kept on writing it off as allergies."

However, it became clear to Tracie that something bigger was at work when large, deep, unexplained bruises began to appear all over Rylieís body.

"Then one night I put her to bed and I typically check the kids before I go to bed myself at night," Tracie said. "I went to her room and I touched her forehead and she was just so hot and I took her temperature at about 103 degrees. I used to work as a nurse before I had kids, so in my mind all of the sudden everything just clicked."

Tracie said her training as a nurse kicked in and she began to research what may be wrong with Rylie.

"I went off and went to the computer that night and Googled leukemia. I went through all of the lists of signs and symptoms and she had every single one," Tracie said. "It was absolutely textbook."

Tracie said she called Rylieís pediatrician and scheduled an emergency appointment first thing the next morning.

"He took a look at her and said, ĎLetís do some blood work. Letís not panic.í And I didnít want to say the word leukemia myself so I looked at him and I said Ďfor?í and I was leading him into telling me what he was expecting."

Rylieís doctor told Tracie that leukemia is rare, but that a blood test ought to be performed on Rylie just in case. The Richardsí were sent home only to be contacted by Rylieís doctor later in the day who confirmed Tracieís suspicions that her daughter did in fact have leukemia. Tracie said that evening the two of them got into an ambulance and were transported to Childrenís Hospital in Seattle, which began their current struggle.

Tracie said after nearly four weeks in the hospital Rylie was responding well enough to treatment to be released temporarily to homecare just in time for Motherís Day.

"The doctor said we were expected to be at the Ronald McDonald House for seven full months. We get to take a month and half vacation home and then we have to come back fulltime," Tracie said. "So I got to spend Motherís Day at my house!"

Tracie said although it has been a trying period for the family she is proud of Rylieís attitude during the ordeal.

"Sheís a brave little girl," Tracie said. "Sheís taught me many things over the last month."

Tracie also said she is very grateful to those who contributed to a fundraiser for Rylie held in early May on National Lemonade Day at Hamada Orthodonics in Luling.

Jackie Stevens, the fundraiser organizer, said they sold $830 worth of lemonade to help fund the familyís stay at the Ronald McDonald House.

"Of course words are never going to be enough to convey my heartfelt appreciation," Tracie said. "The best I can offer right now is my sincerest gratitude and thanks and let them know that every single penny helps and I wish I could name every single person who went and got a cup of lemonade, but not a single one of them will be overlooked in my prayers."

The fundraiser was attended by many members of the community including Rylieís grandparents Roger and Debbie Landry and her aunt and uncle Kristy and Roger Landry, Jr.

More information about the Richards and Rylie, as well as donation options, can be found at http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/rylierichards.

Rylie Landry was diagnosed with leukemia last month.
Courtesy Photo
Rylie Landry was diagnosed with leukemia last month.