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She lost her beloved blanket, until her community came together and found it

Riley-Jo Peltier has been in-and-out of hospitals since she was born at 23 weeks. Her blanket has given her strength through it all, until it went missing this week.

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. — Riley-Jo Peltier was born at 23 weeks and four days. Her parents, Kathy-Jo and Jay Peltier, watched over their little girl for 133 days in the NICU. 

"It was a roller coaster," said Jay, "You had your up days, your down days. It was a journey that changed us both."

But Riley-Jo was a fighter. Doctors gave her a 5 percent chance of living, and she beat all the odds. 

During that time in the NICU, a family friend gave Riley-Jo a small, pink and brown blanket. It stayed with her in her isolette. 

"She has a diagnosis we do not like," said Kathy-Jo, "Basically, neurologists from U of M, DeVos, and Cincinnati Children's Hospital say she’s a miracle. Because her MRI and her, it’s like you’re looking at two different kids."

Due to her early start to life, Riley-Jo is left with some lasting medical conditions, including a neurological syndrome called Pontocerebellar atrophy aplasia. Now 12-years-old, it has caused her to be in-and-out of hospitals most her life. 

During all those doctor's visits and hospital stays, her brown and pink blanket has been right there with her.

Credit: Kathy-Jo
Riley-Jo as a baby, holding onto her blanket.

This past Monday, the family was at the DeVos Children's Hospital for another visit. It was a long day, 15 hours spent in the ER. 

When they returned home the next day, Kathy-Jo says her daughter was upset. Riley-Jo is largely non-verbal, but she repeated, "black and pink," while holding up another blanket. 

"I’m like, your brown and pink?" said Kathy-Jo, "Did you lose it? And she said, yes. I said, do you know where? She said, ER, ER."

Kathy-Jo called the hospital, but it was not in any lost-and-found bins. She thought it may be lost for good, when she decided to take a long-shot and post for help on Facebook.

One group she posted in was Grand Haven Informed. Soon, she had hundreds of comments, likes, and shares. People offered to buy and make new ones, and help her look for the blanket. 

"I just think it’s so amazing people were so caring, and went out of their way," said Jay, "Looked around the hospital, that kind of thing, to find a blanket."

Credit: Kathy-Jo Peltier
Riley-Jo continued to bring her blanket with her to doctor's visits as she grew older.

Meanwhile, a registered nurse working in pediatric surgery at the hospital noticed a brown and pink blanket at a nurse's station Tuesday. Courtney LeClaire did not think much of it at the time, but took a mental note of the color and design. Then, she logged onto Facebook and saw Kathy-Jo's post. 

"And as soon as I saw the little tag at the bottom, she had attached some pictures," said LeClaire, "I knew that that was the one I had seen at the hospital."

LeClaire was not working the day she saw the post, and called up to the hospital. Another hospital worker found it again, and set it aside for her to pick up. 

"Working at the Children's Hospital, almost all of our patients come to the hospital with some kind of stuffed animal or blanket, to just help them feel more secure," said LeClaire, "So, we take it very seriously that we never want to lose those items. We know how important they are to the kids."

LeClaire arranged to have her parents drop off the blanket to the Peltier family, because they lived close by them in Grand Haven. However, they did not tell Riley-Jo just yet that her blanket was on the way back to her. 

Credit: 13 OYS
With a big smile, Riley-Jo opens the bag that held her precious blanket.

Thursday night, there a knock on the door, and two strangers walked in Riley-Jo's home. It was LeClaire's parents, there to reunite the girl and her blanket. 

"It’s amazing, I feel so blessed, and so excited," said Kathy-Jo, "Her support is back."

Through a communication app on her tablet, Riley-Jo said, "Thank you so much," to those who brought her blanket back home. 

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