Fearless 4-year-old reunites with doctors who helped save him

Patient Stories |



Silas Overpeck and his family returned to Riley this week to thank his medical team and to drop off new toys for the Riley Cheer Guild.

By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior writer, mgilmer1@iuhealth.org

Silas Overpeck doesn’t remember the rough days at Riley Children’s Health. He remembers the toys and the fun.

So it was fitting that the 4-year-old arrived at Riley on Tuesday afternoon pulling a wagon full of toys to deliver to other kids in the hospital.

Silas, his two siblings and his parents, Michael and Jenna, returned to Riley to say thank you exactly one year after his hospitalization.

It was June 6, 2022, when the then-3-year-old was rushed to the emergency department at Riley, after the normally active boy began complaining of leg pain, often stumbling and falling.

Thanks to hospitalist Dr. Jodie Meara, neurologist Dr. Laurence Walsh and other members of his medical team, Silas was quickly diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a rare neurological disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks the nerves, causing numbness, weakness and sometimes paralysis in the extremities.

The condition is believed to be triggered by an acute bacterial or viral infection, but tests for COVID, flu and other infections were negative, Jenna Overpeck said.

Because Dr. Meara pushed for an MRI and lumbar puncture within hours of Silas’ arrival in the ED, the diagnosis of GBS meant treatment with IVIG infusions (intravenous immunoglobulin therapy) could begin quickly, leading to rapid improvement.

Today, you’d never know Silas was down for the count last year. He plays soccer, swims, rides his bike and will tell you all about the trampoline he got for Christmas.

“It feels good to come back here,” Michael Overpeck said. “It is refreshing to see the doctors and tell them thank you, and now they can see his progress. I’m sure it means a lot to them, knowing that their chosen profession and their passion really makes a difference.”

Drs. Meara and Walsh came down to the lobby of Simon Family Tower at Riley to reunite with Silas and his family, exchanging hugs and high fives.

Silas presented each with a hand-drawn thank-you note, featuring a photo of him on the soccer field tucked inside.

“I love it,” Dr. Meara said, as she knelt down to talk to Silas and listen to him explain where she fit in amid the people figures he drew on the cover.

“This is awesome to get to see him again. We don’t get to do this very often,” the physician said. “He’s so active now, I love it. That’s always our goal.”

Dr. Walsh was equally impressed with his card, promising to save it as a reminder of why he got into medicine.

“I have a cubby in clinic where I put notes and things, so I’ll put this up there,” he told Silas.

As for the visit – and the toys – the neurologist described it as “amazing positive feedback” after an admittedly scary time for parents.

With GBS, he said, 80 percent to 90 percent of patients do well, but it matters how fast they get treatment.

“It was a dark time, but you guys calmed our nerves and made us trust you so much,” Jenna Overpeck told the doctors. “You sat with us and talked with us, answered all our questions. It’s something we will never forget.”

Formerly an ICU nurse with IU Health Methodist Hospital, she understands how important it can be to medical professionals to see former patients doing so well.

Being able to thank members of Silas’ medical team in person and to bring new toys for the Riley Cheer Guild, which counts on donations to restock its toy room, was a great way to honor the anniversary of her son’s diagnosis, she said.

“This is a place of hope and a place of healing. That’s what we feel when we walk into Riley,” she said. “Yes, there are hard things, but it is a place of hope.”

Silas expresses it better than most, his dad said. Whenever he sees a Riley sign or license plate, he shouts, “That’s my Riley!”

Photos by Mike Dickbernd, IU Health visual journalist, mdickbernd@iuhealth.org