Stillwater News Press


July 10, 2012

Dealing with adversity

STILLWATER, Okla. — What was supposed to be a day of celebration and discovery for Stephanie Hoffman and her husband turned into panic in 2005.

The Hoffmans were set to welcome their second child into the world and were in the doctor’s office to find out the baby’s gender. However, as the ultrasound was performed, the nurse kept going over a certain spot again and again, Hoffman said. Something wasn’t right.

“She just said, ‘We need to go get the doctor,’” Hoffman said. “And I was like, ‘Why, what’s wrong?’”

The nurse began to cry.

“I said, ‘Is my baby going to die?’ And she said, ‘Yes, he is.’ That was really a hard time.”

The Hoffmans waited two hours until their doctor got out of surgery to meet with them. They spoke about how Riley’s life would be different from others his age. He would be born with spina bifada, hydrocephalus, epilepsy and a neurogenic bladder. He would need to use a wheelchair.

“I had mixed emotions,” Hoffman said. “I was angry. I was mad. We had tried to get pregnant. We had been on fertility drugs. And then just trying to find a doctor that could deliver Riley.”

While she liked her doctor in Stillwater, the facilities needed for Riley’s birth and subsequent surgery weren’t available locally. The Hoffmans searched throughout Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas before finding a children’s hospital in Arkansas.

“I went in it thinking I just want to hold him,” Hoffman said. “If God is going to take him, then he’s going to take him anyway, so why not let me deliver and get to hold him instead of taking him beforehand.”

The date had been set, but plans changed. Hoffman went into labor six weeks early.

When she arrived at the children’s hospital, she was already in labor. Doctors stopped the contractions and made preparations for a C-section the next day.

Riley Hoffman was born Aug. 11, 2005.

“When he was born, he could not feel from the waist down,” Hoffman said. “He’s had numerous surgeries already. When he was a couple days old, they put his shunt in; drained the fluid off of his brain. And they closed his spine.”

Seven years later, Hoffman sits with Riley as she discusses his future.

“I’ve said all along that God is the only one who is going to be able to know what’s going to happen to Riley,” Hoffman said. “And as long as we have faith and pray about it. There’s a higher power.”

She says every child is a miracle, but she considers Riley an angel.

Riley is the second of three children. Hoffman is also mother to Kade, 10, and Emilie, 4.

Going from a typically developing child like Kade to Riley is difficult, Hoffman said. She said Riley will never get to run to his parents or sneak into bed with them.

“It’s hard,” Hoffman said. “There are days that I just want to sit and cry and feel sorry for myself, but then something will happen and I’m like you know I have no reason to be sad because he is the most amazing child ever.”

Riley gives a quizzical look to his mother, asking her if she’s going to cry. Hoffman tells Riley she won’t, but he makes her promise.

“He’s pretty amazing,” Hoffman said. “He’s funny. He’s a character. He’s always smiling, laughing. He doesn’t know a stranger.”

Hoffman’s friend, Crystal Day, hopes to help Riley as he needs a new wheelchair.

“Stephanie had posted that she needed to get a new wheelchair and was looking for fundraising ideas and it laid heavy on my heart for a couple of days,” Day said.

She talked with Hoffman and began to plan for a spaghetti dinner and silent auction on from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Saturday at Southside Baptist Church. The dinner is free. However, donations are sought. Various businesses have donated items toward the silent auction.

Day hopes to raise the $5,000 needed for the new wheelchair, which will have parental controls and a lift mechanism. It also will recline and features leg extenders to help circulation in Riley’s legs.

“This wheelchair that’s coming will last him through his high school years,” Day said.

The Riley Hoffman Fund has been established at Exchange Bank in Stillwater and daily postings are made on the fund’s Facebook page.

Questions can be directed to

Hoffman sees a big future for her son.

“I think that he could do anything that he wants to do,” Hoffman said. “I think he’s going to be like any other child. It’s just going to take him a little bit longer to accomplish his goals, but I definitely think he has the willpower and the want to be able to do anything. He’s very smart and he loves people. I think he’ll be great.”

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