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The prayers of many people returned to Bluefield Sunday afternoon on the wings of an Angel Flight aircraft.
Isaac Riffe, the 9-month-old son of Chuck and Nicole Riffe, of Freeman, near Bramwell, arrived in the Mercer County Airport at about 4:25 p.m., after more than two months of round-the-clock treatment for esophageal atresia (EA) at Boston Children’s Hospital.
“I’m thrilled,” Nicole Riffe said after entering the Mercer County terminal where she was surrounded by a crowd of 45 or 50 family members, friends and well-wishers. “I’ve never been so glad to have my feet planted on West Virginia soil.”
The Riffes knew about Isaac’s birth defect early on and had started providing him with nourishment before they traveled — via Angel Flight — to Boston, Mass., on Nov. 11. EA is a birth defect in infants where the esophagus doesn’t connect to the stomach, and as a result, nothing that the baby swallows gets into the stomach.
“Chuck and Nicole were feeding Isaac through a G-tube before they went to Boston,” Denver Riffe, Isaac’s paternal grandfather said. “When he arrived there, no one believed how healthy he was. They said they were used to working with wrinkles instead of rolls. I think that’s why Isaac did so well in Boston and was able to come home two months earlier than they originally thought.”
Jenny Riffe, Nicole’s sister-in-law, distributed small florescent green pennants with “Isaac!!!” written on one side and, “We love you!” on the other.
“I’ve been up there twice to visit Nicole and Isaac,” Jenny Riffe, who lives in Radford, Va., said. “Once was a few weeks ago and the other time was just last week. The procedure Isaac went through can be a full-time job for anyone, and I went up to help Nicole. Even though we’re just sisters-in-law, she is like the sister I never had. We’re like sisters from different misters.”
Frank Perry, Chuck’s father, said his son had to work the evening shift at the hospital he works at in Roanoke, Va., and that he was unable to get away to meet his wife and son when they arrived. “He wanted to be here, but he had to work,” Perry said. Even in the absence of Isaac’s dad, the airport was filled with family and friends.
The Angel Flight plane was due to land at 4:10 p.m., but was delayed due to a strong head wind. At the first sight of an airplane approaching the runway, Isaac’s family and friends crowded through the door and out on to the tarmac. Isaac’s little brother, Eli, held the door open as the crowd filed out and held it open again when they returned. There was plenty of warmth outside and inside the terminal.
“I’ve been flying for Angel Flight since 1991,” John, the Angel Flight pilot said. John lives in Bristol, N.H. “This is probably the biggest turnout I’ve ever seen.”
People crowded around the aircraft just to get a glimpse of Isaac and Nicole. It took time for all the shared hugs and tears to filter through, and the reunion that started outside continued inside.
“I did not expect this at all,” Nicole Riffe said. “That’s for sure.”
Denver Riffe expressed thanks for the prayers for his family through this part of Isaac’s treatment. He said his grandson’s prognosis is good.
— Contact Bill Archer at email@example.com쇓