Family, friends of Riley Porter rally to be her heart heroes

Published 10:17 am Wednesday, March 8, 2017

When Samantha Turner was 17 weeks pregnant, she and her boyfriend, Quinton Porter, decided to have a test done at a Richmond area hospital that would let them know if they were going to have a son or daughter. In addition to later learning the sex, a girl, they were also alerted that an issue with the fetus had been detected. Five weeks later, a specialist diagnosed that their child had Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. That meant, Turner said, a congenital issue had caused the left side of the heart to stop growing.

Riley Mackenzie Porter balances keeping her right arm up for an infusion while trying to eat dinner with her left hand. The child, who will be 3 in mid-April, has Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. That means a congenital issue had caused the left side of the heart to stop growing. She is on a list for a transplant. — Stephen H. Cowles | Tidewater News

Terminate the pregnancy had reportedly been suggested — Turner said she even felt pressured — but the couple decided against the advice. They wanted their child, “even if it was for 5 minutes,” she said.

With that decision made, the couple sought and found another opinion, and some hope, through Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters and Eastern Virginia Medical School.

Dr. Benjamin Peeler of the University of Virginia, who shares his skills at EVMS, told them there’s a viable chance for the baby.

Three days after she was born on Good Friday in 2014, Riley Mackenzie Porter had her first open heart surgery the following Monday.

The child will be 3 years old on April 18.

There was to be a three-step procedure that would have improved her condition, the first being a method of redirecting blood to flow to the right side of the heart. When it came time for step three, a common cold resulted in Riley having heart failure.

The little girl is on a list for a heart transplant, albeit at the bottom, which nevertheless requires Samantha and Quinton to keep their mobile phones on all the time. Whenever that expected call rings, the family has four hours to get to UVA, where the surgery would take place. Following surgery, Riley would be in an intensive care unit for three weeks. The parents could stay at either a Ronald McDonald House or hotel.

Meanwhile, the child daily takes seven different medications, some must be done three times a day.

“She struggles with that a whole lot,” said Turner.

Most recently, the little patient had the second of four infusions that would increase her chances of getting a heart.

“She knows she regularly goes to the doctor,” Turner said about her daughter’s coping with the medical issue. “It’s still traumatizing, but for the most part she lets them do what’s needed.”

Turner is a part-time mail carrier; Quinton works for Severn Peanuts at the Hancock site in Courtland. They have insurance that helps to cover costs, but money is still needed for expenses.

Speaking of which, the couple found out that the transplant could cost from $400,000 to $800,000.

But they’re not alone in their situation. Family members and friends have shared of themselves.

The child is the maternal granddaughter of Sandy Turner of Franklin and Bill and Lisa K. Turner of Capron; and paternal granddaughter of Max and Barbette Porter.

“We were devastated with the news,” said Holly Mein of Courtland, who’s known Samantha all her life. “We fully anticipated that Riley’s battle was going to be severe and it has been.”

Kim Edwards, who is a aunt to Samantha and her sister, Amanda, said she also was quite upset on learning the news about her great-niece.

She, along with so many other people, is prayerful that everything will turn out OK.

“She’s a fighter,” Edwards said of Riley. “That’s what getting her through this.”

To assist the family, she’s helped organized a fundraiser, Riley’s Heart Heroes Benefit Dance, which takes place this Saturday.

“We just wanted to do what we can to ease the pain and provide some addition money for them to have,” Mein added.

Edwards continued, “This area has been so supportive of Samantha and her child. It’s so nice to live surrounded by people who love you … even strangers.”