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Children's Book Helping Little Girl Share Her Story

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Riley Jones doesn't let a heart defect slow her down.

But her mother, Lori Jones, says the 6-year-old North Hills girl has grown all too familiar with hospital beds.

"She received her first pacemaker in Virginia, but then this summer got a new pacemaker, so we stayed at Children's Hospital," said Jones.

Riley's progress is monitored by Dr. Guarav Arora, who says she is able to take part in most activities enjoyed by children her age.

"We would expect her to be able to exercise, participate in non-contact sports activities, and really carry on an essentially normal life," said Dr. Arora.

But Riley was afraid to share her story with classmates at Wexford Elementary.

"Riley had a big secret." Lori Jones reads aloud from "Riley's Heart Machine," a children's book she wrote about her daughter. "A secret so big, she had decided she was never going to share it with anyone at school...not ever. She worried if the told the other kids, they would laugh at her."

Riley admits she was fearful of sharing her condition with her friends.

"I don't want to tell my classmates that I have a pacemaker," she said. "I don't want to tell anybody in my class. And one day, at 'show and tell,' I [told] my whole class that I have a pacemaker."

Her mother says their response put Riley's fears at rest.

"They read the story, and she showed them her scar and her pacemaker, and it's been great," said Jones. "And I'm getting feedback from other parents, and other moms and other teachers, and it's creating a conversation with the kids about being different."

The story concludes: "Everyone clapped for Riley as she walked back to her seat. No one laughed."

Jones will sign copies Thursday night, Nov. 15, at "Castle Toys and Games" in Wexford. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Children's Heart Foundation.

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