Riker Stippick emergency and medical expenses
Photo:Riker Stippick. 
  • Riker Stippick from Austin, Texas, was celebrating his 10th birthday in New York City
  • Doctors believe Riker experienced an abnormal tangle of arteries and veins in the brain that disrupted normal blood flow and can lead to a rupture or bleeding
  • Riker was put in a medically induced coma and his parents are hoping his condition will improve

A Texas family is holding onto hope after their 10-year-old son ended up in a coma during what was supposed to be a celebratory birthday trip to New York City.

Riker Stippick was excited for his first-ever visit to the Big Apple but a health emergency halted the Austin family’s trip on Feb. 5. While visiting the World Trade Center with his parents, David and Hillary Stippick, Riker developed a painful headache.

“There’s a building over there that we walked through and as soon as we walked through that building he said, ‘Oh, I have a really bad headache. This is the worst headache I’ve ever had,’” his father David told FOX5, noting that Riker’s headache quickly escalated and he began vomiting and seizing. “It was like a shriek of pain.”

“Your kid is happy and healthy and 10, you kind of assume they’re going to stay that way,” he said.

Riker was rushed to Bellevue Hospital and admitted to the pediatric ICU, where he was immediately put in a medically induced coma.

Doctors told Riker’s parents that they believe he was experiencing an arteriovenous malformation (AVM), an abnormal tangle of arteries and veins in the brain that disrupts normal blood flow and can lead to a rupture or bleeding.

About one in 100,000 people per year are diagnosed with AVM’s, which usually aren’t discovered until after they rupture. Left untreated, they can cause brain damage, strokes or death.

Riker’s doctors said an aneurysm inside his arteries and veins caused the excruciating pain and surgeons had to drill a hole into his skull to drain blood and fluid in order to relieve pressure.

“It’s as awful as it sounds, you know what I mean?” David told the outlet.

Riker Stippick emergency and medical expenses
Riker Stippick.

Although doctors believe Riker experienced an AVM, until the 10-year-old is stable and off the machines, he can’t get an MRI for an official diagnosis. Now, doctors and the family are waiting — and hoping — for Riker’s condition to improve.

Meanwhile, the pastor at the family’s church created a GoFundMe account in order to help support Riker’s recovery journey. It has garnered over $110,000 in less than a week.

“I don’t have the words to say thank you to everybody outside of the words thank you,” David said, adding that the support back home has been “incredible and overwhelming.”

“We never expected it to be our reality, but it is,” he told the outlet. “We don’t know the genuine hope of if and when he does come out of this, what kind of therapies or treatments are going to be needed down the line.”  

In an update posted Sunday to the GoFundMe page, the family shared that Riker “suffered a massive brain trauma” and they’ve received mixed messages about the possibility of Riker’s survival.

However, they are taking everything “day by day, minute by minute” as he remains in the hospital.

“On Friday at 2:30, we met with Riker’s care team and we were told that they were not optimistic that Riker would make it through the weekend and that we needed to prepare ourselves,” they said, sharing a photo of their son while intubated and sedated in the hospital. “We, understandably, were sent into a tailspin and haven’t been able to do anything other than cry and get our family here to say goodbyes.”

“And somehow…here we are. This morning, Riker’s main ICU doctor said she felt ‘optimistic,’” the family said. “I want to be clear; Riker suffered a massive brain trauma. Optimistic means survival; not that Riker wakes up and he’s the same ol’ kid. But if there is any child that could pull out a full miracle, it is Riker Stippick.”