It’s been seven weeks since Riverdale junior pitcher Clay Riggs was put in intensive care because both of his lungs collapsed.
Four of the five chest tubes are gone, and he is inching closer to the day when he will leave his eighth-floor room at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.
“It’s a moral victory every time one of these (tubes) come out,” Riggs said.
“Once things come out, I’m determined to keep it out. If it goes back in, I feel like it’s a loss. That’s almost a setback. I’m determined that doesn’t happen.
Riggs’ physical and occupational therapist wear maroon “Pray4Clay” bracelets, which the family provided upon request. He said it’s his faith and prayers from those that have heard his story that have helped heal his body.
Doctors still aren’t positive what caused the small holes that caused his lungs to collapse.
“People have told me I’m a miracle,” Riggs said. “It’s been amazing with all the prayers I’ve received.”
Riggs’ 6-foot-8 frame has thinned since he’s been in the hospital. He weighed 176 pounds when admitted but lost 40 pounds. He’s put 11 pounds back on his body.
In recent days, his feeding tube was removed with orders that he maintain a 4,300-calorie-a-day, high-protein diet.
“The (nurse) told me (Monday) that I had 5,800 calories for that day,” Riggs said. “She told me she’d never seen somebody so determined. I told her, ‘I’m not getting that thing put back in.’ “
Once the tubes are removed, Riggs will spend some time at Vanderbilt Stallworth Rehabilitation Hospital.
“It’s just across the street from the hospital,” he said. “It’s to help get my muscles and strength back so I can get to the point where I can do my daily stuff, like getting up and brushing my teeth.”
These days, Riggs goes for short, daily walks around the hospital and has been able to venture outside. He walks with a physical therapist, family members and sometimes his youth pastor, Steve Spence.
Spence was at the hospital daily while Riggs was in intensive care. He still visits him multiple times a week and had lunch with Riggs earlier this week. The two have a deal that Spence will take Riggs out for a steak dinner when he finally is released from the hospital.
Riggs misses his Riverdale teammates, who have visited him.
Teammate D.J. Watkins’ grandmother painted a picture of Riggs after pausing her television during a local newscast. The entire Riverdale team signed the back of the picture, which is sitting on a shelf in his hospital room.
Riggs, though, wants to do more than visit with his team. He wants to see them on the field competing.
“I want to see my team play,” Riggs said. “It’s just a matter of days before I’m out. Hopefully, I’ll see a district game.”