‘He’s happy and healthy’: Recovery going well for little RykerFriends, family and locals gathered in the American Legion Hall’s basement Saturday afternoon to help a Mitchell family raise nearly $10,000.
By: Candy DenOuden, The Daily Republic
Friends, family and locals gathered in the American Legion Hall’s basement Saturday afternoon to help a Mitchell family raise nearly $10,000.
Ryker’s Road to Recovery, a benefit for 2 ½-year-old Ryker Killian, was held from 2 to 6 p.m. The event featured a silent auction, raffle tickets, bingo and a free-will donation luncheon.
Ashley Dorzok, Ryker’s mother, said she was blown away by peoples’ generosity.
“I wasn’t expecting to get nearly that much,” she said. “It takes a lot of stress off for the next six weeks.”
Part of the $10,000 also came from Modern Woodmen of America, which agreed to match up to $2,500 in funds raised.
Dorzok said finances have been stretched with her and Justin Killian, Ryker’s father, maxed out on vacation time with frequent hospital visits. She said Ryker is on South Dakota Medicaid, which has covered some expenses, but not all.
“Since all his surgeries were in St. Paul, Minn., a lot of things weren’t covered by South Dakota Medicaid,” she said. “There are a lot of things that were covered, but there were a lot of things that weren’t.”
And, like many, she and Justin don’t have health insurance. Justin’s job doesn’t offer it, and though Ashley’s does, she said they can’t quite meet the co-pay.
“We can’t afford it,” she said.
Ryker’s grandmother, Sharie Dorzok, and some of her friends organized the event, to help with her grandson’s growing medical expenses following a tragic accident Aug. 4, 2011.
It was a fairly routine day – Ashley was at work, and Justin was at home watching their three children.
He had just finished giving the youngest, 18-month-old Ryker, a bath and left the toddler in the empty tub while he left to get some clothes.
“Like we’d done a million times before,” Ashley said.
When Justin came back, though, everything was different.
Mylee, the couple’s then 3-year-old daughter, saw Ryker sitting in an empty tub.
“She wanted to give him some more bath water,” Ashley said.
Unfortunately, the only knob Mylee could reach turned on the hot water — very hot.
“We didn’t know our water heater was turned all the way up,” Ashley said.
When Killian returned, he found Ryker already badly burned.
“I got the worst call a mother ever gets,” Ashley said.
Justin and Ryker rushed to the emergency room, where Ryker then was flown to the Regions Burn Center in St. Paul where they were told Ryker had sustained third-degree burns over 35 percent of his body.
“At first when we got there, they said it was 50/50, they said he might not make it,” Ashley said, tearing up at the memory.
But, Ryker did make it — after 13 weeks of treatments and six surgeries in six months.
“Hell,” Ashley said in response to what the first months after Ryker’s accident were like. “It’s been up and down.”
She said because of his injuries, it was two months before she could actually pick up Ryker or hold him.
“That was really hard,” she said.
In those first weeks, Ashley said Justin stayed in St. Paul with Ryker, while Ashley worked during the week and traveled to Minnesota on the weekends, which put a strain on the entire family.
“I was very exhausted,” she said. “It took a while for it to sink in.”
With the help of family and friends, and understanding employers, Ashley said they’ve been able to make it through.
“All the people that have supported us and been there for us, they all made the worst time in our lives a little bit easier,” Ashley said. “We can’t thank everyone enough.”
When Ryker did finally make it home in October of 2011, he still had casts on both arms and both legs. Those casts stayed on for nine months while Ryker mended.
Now, however, Ashley said her son is out of the casts — and very happy to be so.
“He’s wonderful,” Dorzok said. “He’s happy and healthy.”
But, Ryker’s recovery is not complete. He has another surgery scheduled next week, to help his fingers and toes stay straight.
“There will be more surgeries as he grows and his skin stretches,” Ashley said.
As Ryker and his parents start to try to get back to a normal routine, Ashley said Mylee and their oldest, Kaden, have weathered the storm well.
”They still say how cute Ryker is, even with his burns,” she said.
There are long-lasting effects from the accident, though.
Ryker cannot attend a daycare for up to two years, which means that Ashley and Justin tag team their work, one working days and the other working nights.
And, the accident has set Ryker behind other kids his age with movement and communication.
Before the accident, family members say Ryker was literally running around, and had just begun using words like “mommy” and “daddy” on a regular basis.
Sharie said last week, 369 days after the accident, Ryker took his first unassisted steps, and is starting to try talking again.
“He’s a little behind on talking and motor skills, but I can’t ask any more than what he’s already given me,” Ashley said. “He amazes me with how strong he’s been, how happy he is.”
She said Dakota Physical Therapy, where she works, have been tremendously understanding during the process, and have worked with Ryker on his physical therapy.
“They’re the ones that have gotten him to where he’s at,” she said.
“I couldn’t ask for a better employer.”
Ashley said they hope their story will serve as a warning for other parents, that even the most unlikely accidents can happen.
“Check your hot water heaters,” she said. “It only takes a matter of seconds for your life to turn upside down.”
Those wanting to donate to the Ryker Killian Fund can do so at the Mitchell Federal Credit Union on 301 S. Ohlman St.