Senator Codey emulates the qualities of true leadership. We admire his dedication to improving society with kindness, empathy, and tangible actions!
Post's instincts and persistence paid off, as the former New Jersey governor and current senator in the state's 27th District paved the way for Riley's surgery on May 26.
On Wednesday, in a small ceremony at Codey's office in Livingston, the senator presented the family with a personal check that covered the remaining cost of the medical procedure.
The surgery has been crucial in helping Riley of Hardyston and a 2021 graduate of Wallkill Valley Regional High School, regain her quality of life after she was diagnosed with scoliosis at age 14.
The condition started out relatively mild but gradually became more severe, and Riley often had to wear a hard plastic brace to deal with the affliction.
"Living with it every day, it was hard to get out of bed, it was hard to go to school," she said. "The pain was just unbearable before the surgery."
Codey learned of Riley's situation in April when he visited Gemma's Country Kitchen in Ogdensburg as part of a program to help local businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
When Post walked up to the senator, he told him of Riley, the surgery she needed and the expense not covered by insurance. The surgery, to be performed at St. Peter's University Hospital in New Brunswick would cost about $140,000. The family's insurance companies rejected numerous appeals for coverage.
"When I got my final denial, I felt hopeless, desperate. I had no idea what we were going to do," said Melissa Post, Riley's mother. "I knew we needed to get (the surgery) done, but I didn't know how."
Codey, a grandfather himself, promised James Post he would do whatever he could to make his granddaughter's surgery a reality. The development was welcome news to Melissa Post when her father gave her a call after the meeting.
"He called me and said, 'You're never going to guess what just happened'," Post said. "After that phone call, I finally had some hope that we would make some progress. I didn't know what was going to happen, but I knew something was going to happen."
Codey immediately reached out to St. Peter's University Hospital CEO and President Les Hirsch, a close friend, to see what they could do about the situation. Within a week, the insurance company had approved Riley's hospital stay, and a fundraising campaign previously organized by Melissa Post was enough for the surgery deposit.
Then came the operation itself, a delicate procedure that involved opening Riley's ribs and collapsing her lung to reach her spine. While it was successful, it also included a difficult recovery period.
"This is a hell of an operation," Codey said. "It's not just one and done and you're running around the track the next day."
Riley remained in the hospital for a week after surgery. A chest tube drained fluid from her lung, and an epidural complicated her recovery when it became dislodged on the second day.
"I just remember being in a lot of pain, connected to a lot of things," Riley said. "When I got back home I was getting a little bit better, but it was really hard to get up by myself, get out of my bed, pretty much do anything. But when I hit that month mark, I really turned a corner, so I'm getting a lot better now."
With the pain virtually all gone, Riley is now looking ahead to starting her freshman year at Ramapo College of New Jersey. Fittingly, she will be studying nursing and dreams of one day working at St. Peter's, where she can take care of patients facing the same issues she once did.
"Since I went through that, I feel like I kind of owe it to people to be there for them," Riley said. She then added with a laugh, "So if they say, 'You don't understand,' I actually do."