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Family struggles through difficult year to establish new medical practice in Payson

“You’ll be just fine, I’m right behind you” Jesse Riley reassured his then 10-year-old daughter at the top of a steep slope at Brighton Ski Resort.

He watched tentatively as she made her way slowly back and forth down the mountainside until she was near the bottom. Starting behind her he suddenly lost sight of her as she fell, but heard her scream.

Hurrying to the bottom he found her lying on the ground with one ski off and one still attached. She had fallen and her binding had not released, resulting in a serious fracture of her leg that left her in a cast from her hip to her toes for three months.

This was the beginning of a very long year for the Riley family. In addition to this injury, the Riley’s would face challenges that would be difficult alone, let alone stacked in the same year. Renovating a home (doing the work themselves), struggling for six months to sell that home in a waning market in Wyoming, uprooting and moving the family and starting the kids at a new school in a new state, starting a new doctor’s office on their own from scratch, remodeling said office, totaling one of the family cars after a driver ran a red light, and ultimately culminating in a fire in the newly renovated office.

“Luckily the fire is the one that we can actually laugh at, as there was no structural or significant damage done. At that point (December 2019) if the fire had looked hopeless, I may have just locked the front door and let it burn!” Riley jokes.

It would be hard to imagine all of these challenges in the same year, but the truth is that all of these challenges combined paled in comparison to the event that would dominate 2019 for the Riley family, the year that would change their family forever.

At approximately 11 in the morning on April 20, the day before Easter Sunday, Caysie Riley received the call that every parent dread and never thinks will happen to them. “I answered the phone and it was one of Avery’s friends who simply said ‘Avery fell and she’s really hurt.’”

Caysie felt her stomach drop but still hoped for the best. After being told that somebody would call her right back with more details her phone rang again.

“I watched as she listened to the person on the other line when she suddenly looked like the life had gone right out of her. She managed to stammer the words ‘life flight’ at which point I grabbed the phone from her. I always thought that in those emergency situations the doctor brain inside me would be automatic and take over. I was 100 percent dad in that moment.”

Their daughter had been rappelling with friends that morning in the Heber area as part of their prom date. She had suffered a fall of approximately 25 feet, hitting her head twice as she fell and miraculously being caught by her friend at the bottom without dropping her.

“I’m convinced a third hit would have definitely killed her,” Jesse Riley said. She did in fact die and was resuscitated on the life flight to the hospital. Their 18 year old daughter was in a coma for 12 days and the Riley’s were told that there was a 90 percent chance she would not wake up from the coma, based on her MRI results, and that, if she were one of the 10 percent that did wake up, she would likely be in a permanent vegetative state. They were told she would never walk again.

Two months later, on her own strength, their daughter did walk out of the hospital. She has made a miraculous recovery that, while incredibly difficult, is defying all of the doctor’s expectations.

“So, in consideration of the rest of 2019, opening a new practice from the ground up has been the easy part,” Jesse Riley said.

Dr. Jesse Riley and his wife are both originally from Payson and Riley credits the long, hard hours working on the family fruit farm as giving him what it took to make it through school and his surgical residency. The family were thrilled at the prospect of coming back to their home community and decided to take the leap and strike out on their own.

Dr. Riley is a Podiatrist, specializing in both surgical and non-surgical treatments of the foot and ankle. “Everything from an ingrown toenail to a total ankle joint replacement!” Riley said.

Dr. Riley graduated from the Kent State University College of Podiatric Medicine with honors after four years, which included training at the prestigious Cleveland Clinic, and completed a three year surgical residency in Indiana, with not only forefoot surgical training, but rearfoot, ankle and reconstructive training as well.

Prior to moving to Payson Dr. Riley was part of a podiatry group based out of Salt Lake City and while there he was ranked the number one Podiatrist in the Salt Lake City area by RateMDs.

He was then employed at Evanston Regional Hospital in Evanston, Wyo., where he also served as the chief of surgery for the hospital.

Dr. Riley’s new office, Summit Foot and Ankle, is located in Payson on Utah Avenue, directly across from the City Offices at 41 North 400 West. They are accepting new patients and can be reached at (801) 218-3338 or on Instagram @drjesseriley and Facebook, Dr. Jesse Riley. The story of their daughters harrowing journey can be found on Instagram @forthestrengthofavery.(Serve Daily submission.)