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Rock Riser is a 17-year-old junior at Branchville High School.

Until recently, the Bowman native enjoyed doing what many of his peers do: fishing, duck hunting, spending time outdoors, playing sports, spending time with this friends, going to church and more.

Now he’s in a fight for his life.

He needs a lung transplant.

He’s spent nearly 50 days in the intensive care unit, said one of his sisters, Brooke Riser.

He’s been diagnosed with a chronic lung disease due to an inhalation injury, she said.

Doctors aren’t certain what the teen inhaled that caused the injury, she said.

She said her brother may have inhaled dust or chemicals from working on the family’s farm or it may be due to vaping, or some other reason.

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Getting the diagnosis took time and multiple tests.

The teen contracted COVID-19 in 2021, but recovered with no lingering side effects.

He’d also had pneumonia, she said.

She noted that her brother also has been treated for asthma and sleep apnea in the past.

On Nov. 4, he underwent sinus surgery, she said.

Nine days later, however, he spiked a fever and his parents took him to the emergency room at the Regional Medical Center.

Health care workers performed a battery of tests on the teen at RMC, but couldn’t pinpoint the cause of the fever or what was causing him to have some breathing difficulties.

Then on Nov. 20, they transferred him to Prisma Health Children’s Hospital in Columbia.

“They ran more tests than I can count,” Brooke said.

Each of the tests were negative.

Her brother’s breathing continued to deteriorate.

After nine days, nurses placed him on a ventilator and flew him to the Children’s Hospital at the Medical University of South Carolina.

“He needed more oxygen support,” his sister said.

“Doctors still didn’t know what was causing him to be sick,” she added.

“Thirteen days later, doctors said we needed to put Rock on ECMO or we’re not going to have him,” she said.

It was hard news to take.

ECMO is an abbreviation for “extracorporeal membrane oxygenation.” An ECMO machine is a type of life support that keeps blood moving through the body and keeps the oxygen and carbon dioxide balanced in the blood.

An ECMO machine has been connected to his body for nearly one month. He was also transferred from the children’s hospital to the ICU of the main MUSC hospital.

Rock also has a tracheostomy ventilator to help him breathe.

“The goal is to get Rock stronger and let his lungs rest while ECMO does all of the work,” his sister said.

This past Monday, after daily exercises with therapists and his care team, he took 12 steps with their help and using a walker.

By Friday morning, physical therapists and his care team assisted him in walking 184 feet.

The goal was to get him stronger so he could be officially placed on the list for a bi-lateral lung transplant.

On Friday, that goal was reached. At 5:15 p.m., Rock was actively listed for a lung transplant.

The family’s “Miracle for Rock Riser” Facebook page announced “His score is 91, which places him in the top 1% in the United States for a lung transplant!

“Thank you Lord! We give You all the praise!”

Rock’s parents, Gregg and Kena Riser, along with his sisters – Keagan Riser James, Margo Riser and Brooke Riser – and other family members take turns staying with the teen, especially when he’s feeling anxious.

He’s been using a white board with a dry erase marker to communicate, since he’s not able to talk with the tracheostomy placement.

Brooke said on Dec. 23, her brother wrote on the white board that he wanted to know the date.

He wrote “12-23-22” on the board.

He next wrote, “That’s when I got saved. Ask Jesus in my heart.”

The teen’s favorite Bible verse is Philippians 4:13, which is: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

The Riser family has been drawing strength from Jesus Christ.

Multiple churches have been praying for the teen and his family, especially Fellowship of Praise in Santee, where they attend.

On Friday morning, students at Branchville High School led their second prayer event for him. Area students have also sent cards and notes to Rock.

Businesses, churches and individuals are trying to help the Riser family offset the teen’s medical costs.

One of the ways to show financial support is through the purchase of bracelets, T-shirts and decals.

They can be purchased here: www.keaganriserphotography.com/shop

Some individual retailers are also selling bracelets to help with his medical expenses.

The teen and his family are grateful for the raffles and other efforts of individuals and businesses who are collecting funds for his medical expenses.

They are also comforted by the many churches and individuals who are praying.

To keep up with the most current information about Rock’s journey, visit the “Miracle for Rock Riser” Facebook page.

Contact the writer: mbrown@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5545. Follow on Twitter: @MRBrownTandD

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