The memory of one of her first young patients keeps her going



Rizzo Web

Nurse Angela Rizzo still wears the wristband of a boy who taught her how to live.

By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior journalist,

The orange wristband on Angela Rizzo’s ID badge is a visual cue, a reminder of one of her first patients at Riley Hospital for Children.

He is on her mind every day that she walks the halls of the PICU, challenging her to be the best nurse, the best person she can be.

Angela Rizzo at Riley Hospital for Children

“He changed my life in so many ways, just how strong he was in everything he went through,” she said. “He had the most amazing outlook. You didn’t even have to meet him, you could just walk by his room and hear him talking and he just impacted you. Everybody loved him. It was hard not to love that kid.”

There have been many more kids since then – all of them strong and unique in their own right. And she keeps their wristbands as well. But his is the one she continues to wear. He passed away a few years ago, but his memory continues to guide her in the work she does.

Rizzo has been a nurse for 10 years, the first five of them spent working with adult patients in the transplant ICU at IU Health University Hospital. She always knew she wanted to work with children though, so when the opportunity arose, she moved over to Riley.

“It was unique to be on the transplant side because you saw pre- and post-transplant patients, and sometimes I got to go to the OR to run the continuous renal replacement machine. I feel I got a lot of experience working on that unit, but my end goal was always to come work with the kids.”

She prefers the critical care setting and likes the different patient population she and her colleagues see in the PICU, where she works nights.

“We get the neuro kids, the transplant kids, trauma patients – it’s such a variety and I learned that’s the population I’d rather work with. I like being there with patients and families in the time they need you the most, probably the worst time in their lives.”

Not that it’s easy, but she does what she can to make their time in the unit just a little easier.

Rizzo said coming from the adult world she never expected to meet so many strong and amazing children.

“You see them at these lows and they make it through when all the odds are against them. That’s the most rewarding part of my job.”

One of those patients who beat the odds was Josh Roy, a 13-year-old boy who came in with the flu and rapidly went downhill. Rizzo and another nurse cared for Josh the night he came in and continued supporting his care for the next few weeks.

Rizzo with her husband and pup

“He looked so bad when he first got here, and now after 100 days, to see him smiling and walking out of here, that’s just amazing.”

Josh was discharged two weeks ago from the rehab unit on his 100th day at Riley and celebrated with the PICU team before he left the hospital.

“I never put anything past a child,” Rizzo said. No matter how sick they are, you just can’t give up.”

Rizzo and her husband, Jason, live in Indianapolis with their three cats and a newly adopted rescue pup – an Australian Shepherd-Husky mix they named Eva, after one of Rizzo’s favorite Disney characters.

“I would have a whole house of animals if my husband would let me.”

Photos submitted and by Mike Dickbernd, IU Health visual journalist,