A human moment

Riley Children’s Hospital

Indiana linebackers Matt Mayberry, left, and Will Patterson talk with a patient Tuesday at the Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis.

INDIANAPOLIS — I have two stepsons.

Hunter is 13 and Ian is 9. We have no genetic relation, but I have that fatherly feeling for them.

So, when I walked into the Riley Children’s Hospital on Tuesday, there was only one thought that went through my mind as I saw sick kid after sick kid.

Only by the grace of God is that not one of mine.

I saw the same look in Bill Lynch’s face. The Indiana coach gets a lot of grief for his team, his coaching style and (ultimately) his record.

But in the moment that a group of us talked about the two boys from Greene County who are in the burn unit at Riley after a weekend accident that involved gasoline, you saw a look in Lynch’s face that said this news had affected him.

It was a human moment in a series of them on Tuesday, with Lynch and 70 members of the football team visiting these sick children.

I followed Jammie Kirlew, Matt Mayberry and some others into the post-surgical unit. The patients in the small wing (maybe 10 rooms) are there recovering. Some had general surgeries. Others had surgery to treat Crohn’s Disease, which causes inflammation in your intestines. More were there with multivisceral transplants, in which doctors remove several organs (like your stomach, pancreas, liver and small intenstine) during one surgery.

Scary stuff.

The group did what they could (the hospital has strict guidelines on how to interact with the patients, to avoid confusion or injury) and handed out gift bags (including an autographed team poster).

The patients were happy to see the football players — an administrator said it was the first time in her decade at the hospital that a full team showed up — but were also sick, and tired.

Most of the football players do not have the same viewpoint as those of us with children do. They’re young, big and strong — the phrase “Superman complex” comes to mind.

But Kirlew said he had butterflies on the way up to Indianapolis. I believe him — the bus was extremely quiet.

It wasn’t so much on the way back, at least initially.

There was laughter, probably because that is how you react when you’re 20 years old and you just spent more than an hour in a hospital. But there was also talk of what they had seen — one group talked about sickle cell anemia.

I don’t know what that means. I doubt any of the 70 players were changed forever because of the afternoon. Life does not work like that.

But it was a rare opportunity to see Lynch and his team as something more than a win-loss record.


  1. Will Patterson is a great kid and leader…I hope he has an incredible season and gets drafted in the 3rd or 4th round of next year’s NFL draft.

  2. This was a great thing for this team to do.

    I have witnessed first hand what Riley hospital is like when treating a child.

    My son suffered a head injury during practice last year that required him to be transferred to Riley. The staff there was wonderful.

    There was always a nurse or one of the team of doctors (they had 3 tending to him at first) who was keeping me and other family members informed as to what was going on.

    They answered all questions directly, and even though he was one many in the ER that was requiring care, we never felt like we were just another number, but that they truly cared.

    He was kept overnight for observation. I never left his side, but we had too many family members to stay in the room. Every time the nurse would do her check on him, she would bring me a fresh drink and make sure I had everything I needed, knowing I wasn’t leaving him.

    After doing her rounds, she would go down to the family lounge, and update everyone there.

    Riley is a wonderful place and deserves all of the help we can give it. This year I plan to do the Riley Miracle Ride to help raise money to support the hospital.

    I would encourage everyone who reads this to help Riley in any way the possibly can.

    Thank You.

  3. I’m an old Riley kid – one of the lucky ones who wasn’t facing a chronic illness or dealing with severe injury. I just needed the extra level of care that facility provides.

    It’s a great thing to see the IU football team take time to do this. I remember a few visits from people who cared when I was a patient. It always brightened your day and helped you get through to the next day and the next.

  4. Riley is a great place. My daughter had surgery when she was 7 weeks old there and the whole staff of people we dealt with were completely the best ever. I am so glad to see Coach Lynch and the players doing such a worthwhile thing. GO HOOSIERS!!!

  5. Great to see Coach Lynch and the Hoosiers giving back. I don’t think anyone here has ever questioned that he is a good guy.

  6. Bravo to Coach Lynch and the Hoosiers! Many times a little child experiences something like the kindness of these gentlemen that they will never forget. In a time of stress it’s the little things that help heal and strengthen. It’s also really great to hear a positive story about coaches and athletes in a world that seems to concentrate on the negatives. My daughter is a RN in the Pediatrics Critical Care Unit at Methodist in Indy and she says that when the Pacers and Colts visit the unit, the kids actually seem to get better faster. I’m very sure that to see these burly IU players come into a hospital room is a bright spot in a patient’s day. Thanks also for including this story on your forum.

  7. This is what matters in life,,, This is what Coach Lynch is teaching our players,, they can teach a monkey to play football,, but being a caring giving person is how Coach is leading by example giving young men the goals of being a good citizens. Coach Lynch KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!

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