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Child Born Drug Dependent Brings Hardship, Joy and Bliss to East TN Family

Knox County — When Ryder Dickinson was born doctors said he wouldn't live to see his second birthday.

Two open-heart surgeries, one liver transplant and 15 other surgeries later, Ryder is a month away from the big day and is beating the odds.

Ryder's mother abused substances while she was pregnant, and he was born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.

Ryder suffers from a liver disease called Biliary Atresia, Heterotaxy and a rare heart defect called AVSD.

"He has never stopped fighting, never," his adoptive father Stefan Dickinson said. "I am not as strong as this little kid because I sure know I have my issues and he doesn't stop fighting."

Dickinson's wife Shiane frequently travels to Cincinatti, Ohio to see specialists while Stefan stays in Knoxville working to support the family, which includes their four biological children.

During one procedure in Cincinnati, Ryder was without oxygen for almost 15 minutes. It took an hour and a half to revive him, and he spent the next eight days on life support. Now, he is doing better than doctor's expected.

"That's definitely all God," Shiane Dickinson said. "We have said over and over again, God has a plan for him and we're excited to see what it is."

Along with around the clock care from his adoptive parents, three home-health care nurses work with Ryder. He is developing slower than normal. He is 23 months and weighs less than 20lbs. He cannot walk and his motor skills are under-developed.

"We've seen it when it's amazing months going by, and then on the turn of a dime he's back in the hospital and we don't know what's going to happen," Stefan said.

Ryder will face a lifetime of health complications because of his conditions.

Children's Organ Transplant Association has set up a fund for his future to help cover medical expenses for the rest of his life.

Next month, a virtual running event will fundraise to help jump start Ryder's COTA fund.

The event is a virtual Dash or Donate, where participants are asked to either run 3.3 miles or donate on Ryder's behalf. The run distance is 3.3 miles because his liver transplant happened on March 3. The campaign ends on August 30 - Ryder's second birthday.

"Although every day is a blessing, this is a huge blessing for us and we plan to definitely celebrate," Shiane said.

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