Special to the Enquirer

Miracle girl

Hartselle’s Richlyn Carter champions Children’s Hospital fundraiser

Richlyn Carter, 4-year-old daughter of Clay and Starr Carter and granddaughter of Dick and Sandra Carter, all of Hartselle, was recognized as champion of the 2019 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals’ Together We Give Hope Walmart Campaign Kickoff, which was held in Trussville May 30.

Walmart management, associates and customers are providing support for the annual fundraiser. They contributed more than $1 million in 2018.

“Everybody falls in love with (Richlyn) when they meet her,” said her grandfather. “Me and my wife take care of Richlyn while her parents work. We’ll be going around to Walmart stores with her during the campaign so she can thank managers and associates for their support of Children’s Hospital.”

The intuition of her parents saved Richlyn’s life when she was 6 weeks old.

“She began crying while in bed and fell ill,” recalled her father. “As first-time parents, we couldn’t tell what was wrong, but we thought it was probably a stomach virus, so we took her to the pediatrician the next day. They doctor told us it wasn’t viral, but he really wasn’t sure what it was, so he made an appointment for us to go see a gastrointestinal doctor.”

That same evening, the Carters weren’t confident Richlyn could wait until the next week to see the GI doctor. Acting on instinct, they left their home in Hartselle and took Richlyn to the emergency room in Huntsville.

“We knew we were just at the pediatrician earlier that morning, but she was just still so sick,” Clay said. “Thankfully, we listened to our intuition. She looked like she was trying to sleep, but she was really close to dying.”

After arriving at the hospital, doctors quickly knew it was an intestinal problem causing a blockage but nothing more. Richlyn was put in the critical area unit and transported to Children’s of Alabama, where it was discovered she had lymphatic malformations, sponge-like masses containing fluid thought to be caused by abnormal development of the lymphatic system.

In Richlyn, the blood vessels leading to the intestines were deformed at birth, wrapping around her small intestine and pinching it off.

“Doctors weren’t sure if she would be able to make it to the operating room,” Clay said. “But in the course of an elevator ride, God took over and stabilized her enough so the doctors could perform surgery.”

Richlyn survived the surgery, and doctors were able to cut out most of the malformations, which included about 18 centimeters of her small intestine. “Because she was so weak, doctors had to hurry and stitch the two ends of the intestines together and hope it was enough,” Clay said. “We just had to wait and see.”  

Initially, Clay said, doctors believed Richlyn would require further surgeries. Thy also warned the family Richlyn would probably need a G-tube bypassing the intestine and a catheter bag her entire life.

“Starr and I were prepared to stay in the hospital for about six months, but then, Richlyn surprised everyone and healed perfectly,” Clay said. “God had other plans. She only had to stay in the hospital about a month. We all knew it would take a miracle, and that’s exactly what we got.”

Today, apart from a scar on her stomach, Richlyn shows no signs of suffering from a life-threatening illness.

“She’s just a normal, healthy, happy little girl,” Clay said. “We give the doctors and nurses at Children’s so much credit. They did so much for Richlyn and all of us.”

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