Riana Buddemeyer celebrated her fourth birthday Jan. 3. It was a moment of happiness for the Buddemeyer family.
Riana joined the family after undergoing a multivisceral transplant for a rare digestive tract disorder at 26 weeks old, receiving a liver, small and large bowels, stomach and pancreas.
The Buddemeyer’s daughter, Amanda, at age 9, lost her fight to the rare disorder on Oct. 11, 2003, after a second transplant.
After a miscarriage, the Buddemeyers decided to move on, both of them starting new businesses. Mike, a constriction business, Monica, a nurse, began 1st Home Healthcare.
Then came Riana, who had the same surgery at the same Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami as Amanda.
With Riana’s father not in the picture and her mother giving up her legal rights, Riana was placed in a nursing home with a pediatric floor.
Monica’s father, Juan Manfredi, a volunteer at Jackson Memorial called his daughter.
The family was very hesitant, even to visit. But they did and once they saw Riana they knew they had to help.
At the time Mike said, “My concern for all of us was about getting back into the transplant world and going through that heartache again.”
Monica said, “I was scared it would bring back bad memories.” She as concerned about being able to bond with Riana, “but when she smiles at you, you are like her everything.”
They decided to take another chance to give back to those who helped them with Amanda.
A judge gave them partial custody on Dec. 6, 2005. She went home to Marco Island and never left.
Riana became a vital part of the family that wanted to give her a chance at life. Mike and Monica adopted Riana on their 15th anniversary, Aug. 18, 2006.
Another child, Logan, with the same disorder, joined the family on May 11, 2006.
While Riana did well, Logan has had two multivisceral surgeries and was battling a severe rejection, having to be hospitalized in Miami since Dec. 5, 2008. He came home on Sunday.
With Mike and Monica in Miami talking with physicians about a plan to help Logan on Saturday, the worst happened for Riana.
“That morning she was absolutely fine, running playing, dancing,” Mike said. “Bridgette (Walsh), a nurse, took Riana and sister Samantha out to breakfast. After breakfast Riana wasn’t feeling good. As the nurse packed up to join us in Miami, Riana developed a fever and had problems breathing.
“Riana was rushed by ambulance to Physicians Regional Medical Center (in Naples) and had to be put on a ventilator. Her heart stopped shortly after that. The doctors worked on her for over an hour and a half. They are going to perform an autopsy in Miami to see the cause of death. They think she went septic and it went right to her heart. There were no signs or symptoms to give us a jump on it.”
Riana was pronounced dead at 4:30 p.m. on Valentine’s Day.
For weeks the Buddemeyers had been preparing for what might happen to Logan.
In an e-mail to friends, Monica said, “For weeks now I have been trying to prepare myself and Mike that this exact thing can happen to Logan. That in hours he can get an infection and he would be gone, never did I think that we would be going through this pain for the lost Ri.”
The family was shaken. In the e-mail Monica said, “Samantha (15), keeps saying life is not fair and Mike just kept saying it is Ri, what are we going to do now and I truly had no words of wisdom to give, they are all right.”
Their eldest daughter, Melissa, stroked Riana’s hair and talked about how she was so much fun and how she gave the family so much.
Mike recalled a recent visit by a Tommie Barfield Elementary teacher as they were thinking about doing some home schooling with Riana.
“The teacher asked her to count to 10 and she did,” Mike said. “As the teacher turned Riana said wait and counted to 10 in Spanish.”
In an e-mail by Mike on Sunday, he said, “Riana was a special girl who brought love and joy into our lives after we lost Amanda five years ago. She was the happiest child we ever had seen. She brought smiles and laughter to everyone she met. The three years we had her made our lives complete.”
Monica said, “Right now we can’t stop crying, but with time, hopefully, we will start to cope with the pain that will always be there as we learned with Amanda, but we will start feeling the sun in our face and the love in our hearts again.”
Mike and Monica were to meet with doctors on a plan of treatment for Logan on Tuesday.
“Logan’s condition is stable, he is still in severe rejection. It could mean using immune suppression drugs or surgery,” Mike said.
Services for Riana will be at Hodges-Josberger Funeral Home, from 5 to 8 p.m., Friday, and Mass will be said at noon on Saturday at San Marco Catholic Church. Burial will be at the Marco Island Cemetery, at a plot close to Amanda.
“We want people to dress Island casual,” Mike said. “We want it to feel more like a celebration, not gloomy and dark.”
Rich Townsend, a family friend, has created a Web site for Riana where photos and messages can be sent. The site is riana-buddemeyer.memory-of.com/about.aspx. Those who want to make donations in her memory can go to a Web site created when Amanda died. It is amandasfriends.org.