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Teen faces bumpy road following liver transplant

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Ryan Richardson got a new liver less than two weeks ago and was settling into a new routine at the Ronald McDonald House near Duke University Medical Center when a setback sent him back to the hospital for a liver biopsy Wednesday.

The biopsy confirmed that Ryan, a 15-year-old Fike High School student, was showing signs of mild rejection.

"It was a blow to receive the news," said his mother, Mary Richardson, "but with doctors saying the IV steroids should work, I am remaining totally optimistic also.

"Just a bump in the road to overcome," she said.

He will remain in the hospital for several more days, she said, to address the rejection issue.

Ryan was born with glycogen storage disease. Prior to transplant, his body didn't properly metabolize glucose, and he had to closely monitor what he ate. The "cure" for the disease was a new liver.

On Tuesday, before bloodwork revealed the potential problem, Ryan told the Times he was feeling pretty good following the surgery and was not in pain. Ryan has been working on getting back his strength and eating what he wants.

Before the transplant, Ryan had to consume a cornstarch mixture every six hours as a way to control the disease. And he could not eat fruit.

Because the transplant basically cured him of glycogen storage disease, he no longer has to constantly check his blood sugar levels or drink the cornstarch mixture and is able to start eating fruit. He started with apple juice and banana.

Ryan, who plays golf, is ready to get back to a "normal life," he said, and back on the golf course. He played in the Larry Pittman Memorial/ Wilson County Junior Golf Championship last month. 

Golf will have to wait awhile. Ryan's activities will be restricted for several months, and he's not expected to return to classes at Fike until the spring semester.

Ryan said he is grateful for all of the support he has received from friends and strangers.

"It's nice to know that people care," he said.

Mary Richardson echoed that sentiment, saying the support from Wilson has been overwhelming and appreciated.

"The support, the texts, the messages - we have felt the love and prayer," she said.

Richardson said the family is also very grateful for the financial support, which will help her with medical bills and the high cost of prescriptions. Once Ryan was out of the hospital, she had to pick up $1,500 worth of medicines.

"That will add up quickly," she said.

Richardson has also had to take leave from her job at Holmes & Williford Family and Cosmetic Dentistry.

Staying at the Ronald McDonald House has been a big help.

"It's a blessing for any family that has to use it," she said.

A fundraiser in honor of Ryan will be held Thursday, Aug. 24, from 5 to 8 p.m. at Chick-fil-A.

The Children's Organ Transplant Association is helping with fundraising as well. To learn more, contact COTA community coordinators Meg Cox or Laura Lohr at TeamRyanCoordinator@gmail.com.

To make a secure online, tax-deductible donation or for more information on Ryan, visit http://www.COTAforTeamRyanR.com/ or visit the Facebook page We Stand Behind Ryan. 

Donations can also be sent to the Children's Organ Transplant Association, 2501 W. COTA Drive, Bloomington, IN, 47404. Checks or money orders should be made payable to COTA with "In Honor of Team Ryan" written on the memo line on the check.

Those who would like to send cards or notes of encouragement to Ryan can mail them to Ryan Richardson c/o Ronald McDonald House, Room 363, 506 Alexander Ave., Durham, NC 27705.

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