Spunky does not even begin to describe Holden Harless. Full of curiosity and energy, he rushes into each new experience with an enthusiasm that is rarely seen, even in an 8-year-old boy. As he and his family visited the Indianapolis Colts practice field in preparation for the Riley Coin Toss Kid event, he darted from place to place taking photos like a true shutterbug. It is that energy, along with his tenacity, that helped Holden recover from a tumor inside his spine.
At the age 2, Holden began to complain of pain in his lower back. “Originally, we had him treated in our hometown,” explained Scott Harless, Holden’s dad.“We did that for three months—running test after test and not getting anywhere.” That is when Wendy, Holden’s mom, insisted that the family get a second opinion from the highly skilled physicians with Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health. “As a mother, she had an intuition that there was something more serious going on,” Scott continued.
After months of uncertainty, the Harless family found the answers they sought at Riley at IU Health in short order. “It took less than two days to figure out exactly what was going on,” described Scott. Holden’s pain was caused by a tumor the size of a vienna sausage inside his spine. Dr. Jodi Smith director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Riley at IU Health, informed them that if the tumor remained, Holden would be paralyzed in six months. She recommended that Holden have surgery to remove the tumor growing around his vertebra and nerves. Holden came out of the 10-hour surgery with flying colors and began to work with Dr. Smith and her staff to recover and regain his mobility. “Everybody at Riley at IU Health has been just phenomenal. Dr. Smith is phenomenal,” declared Wendy. “She calls you at home. What doctor calls you at home to tell you something? She’s given me her personal e-mail. You don’t get that anywhere else.”
Today, he is an active little boy. “Holden’s health is unbelievable. He lives a normal life,” Scott stated. “If you didn’t pull up his shirt to see the scar…you really would never know that he went through the major surgery he went through. It’s more than we could have asked for.”
This Sunday, Holden’s journey to health will be honored by the Colts. Just before kickoff at Lucas Oil Stadium, Holden will take the field for the Riley Coin Toss Kid event. Look for him on the field and on the Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health Facebook and Twitter pages.