by Paula Yocom
Sometimes when I walk on the path that leads to the backyard of the Diviney house, I imagine the sounds of kids running around, laughing and having fun. I see parents smiling, enjoying the beauty of a warm summer’s day. Then the picture fades into time and I see the colorful flowers and green grass that surround the patio. It is quiet, but the sense of yesteryear lingers. When Ken longingly talks about the beautiful memories of his children growing up, one cannot help but feel the pang of heartache. There is wistfulness, but no remorse, because the Diviney family always knew how to enjoy life. And with great kids like Ryan and Kari, fun was a part of every day.
As readers of Ken’s blog know, those happy, carefree times came to a crashing halt on November 7, 2009, when life as the Diviney family knew it was forever changed. There isn’t one part of their lives that hasn’t been affected by what was done to Ryan. When Kari is home, the easy joy that was once part of the fabric of daily life is rekindled. But when she leaves, there is a quietness that is a stark contrast to the days prior to the attack on Ryan. The magnitude of the injury to Ryan’s brain is seen not only in the suffering it has caused him, but in the impact it has had on his family as well. It is deep, far reaching and life altering.
It is enormous.
Like many of us on Team Diviney, I’ve learned most of what I know about traumatic brain injury by reading Ken’s blog. The amount of information Ken has had to absorb in the past three and a half years is astounding. He has sought help for Ryan from all kinds of doctors, most of them experts in the field of neuroscience and TBI. But ultimately, it has been Ken who has had to mull through the myriad of clinical trials, data and theories to figure out how to best treat his son. One can only imagine the enormity of this responsibility. If Ryan gets sick, it is Ken who must quickly assess the potential severity of the problem and determine the best course of action. Unlike a cancer patient who is monitored by an oncologist, or a diabetic who is treated by an endocrinologist, people with traumatic brain injuries require a variety of doctors to address the range of problems that arise. But as Ken has written about in his blog, not all doctors are even willing to accept patients with TBI. It is a terrible feeling to be told by a medical professional that they are not willing to provide care for your child.
Thankfully, when things looked bleak, Ken would manage to find just the right doctor to help Ryan. It seems so unfair that people with connections (and money) are able to receive the very best of treatment immediately, while families like the Divineys must struggle and search for the help Ryan needs. This is because even in the year 2013, the medical community still lacks an effective protocol to proactively address the most common causes of illness in those with TBI. Ken has spent the last three and a half years developing his own methods to dramatically reduce or prevent such illnesses.
Perhaps one day when his hands don’t hurt so much, and he isn’t mentally drained from the stress of seeking justice for Ryan, he will assemble and share all he has learned. It’s easy to see the physical and emotional toll Ken and Sue have suffered. What may not be so apparent are the millions of little things most of us take for granted that have been cruelly stolen from them – the fun of planning a family vacation, the freedom to visit friends and relatives, the ability to throw a football in the backyard or something as mundane as going to the store together, or pondering what the future might bring.
Because the brain drives the body, any trauma to it is profound. When the injury is as brutal as Ryan’s, the damage is diffuse and therefore affects all his abilities. Most people who have suffered the kind of injury Ryan has wind up in a long term care facility. If they are lucky, there will be enough staff available to not only take care of their basic physical needs, but also provide effective therapy and emotional support. Based on Ken’s research and experience with these institutions, the odds of receiving the kind of help that will increase the chance of recovery are exceedingly small. The majority of people simply cannot handle the physical and emotional demands providing this kind of care requires. The time, energy and sacrifice are enormous. The fact that Ken has the physical strength, intellectual prowess, mental fortitude and tenacity to keep Ryan in excellent health and advance his recovery is a miracle in and of itself.
Sometimes it may seem that Ryan isn’t making much progress. As Ken has said, there could be days, weeks, even months when Ryan doesn’t move or interact much. He also knows this is the nature of how the brain heals, especially when it has been so severely injured. Then there are those moments when the endless hours of providing Ryan therapy, giving him medications, mixing up nutritional supplements, and testing new treatments results in something extraordinary. I was picking up a Tupperware container one evening when I saw a lovely young lady dressed up for the Homecoming dance at a local high school. She was sitting beside Ryan talking about her plans for the evening. I heard Sue tell Ryan to wave goodbye to his friend as she was getting ready to leave for the dance. At his mother’s insistence, Ryan lifted up his right arm and gently waved goodbye with a lightly clutched fist. He then put his arm down, paused, and lifted his arm to wave goodbye again. I felt myself go slightly weak in the knees as I watched Ryan clearly show he knew what was going on.
The trail of the miracle was getting hot, and it was because Ken Diviney kept pushing forward even when all the odds seemed against Ryan. This kind of progress in a person with such a profound brain injury isn’t just big, or huge, or gigantic – thanks to the dedication of his Dad, it’s enormous.
Next Week’s Guest Post (on Saturday, June 29, 2013): Hours before the Attack, by Karen Tiplady
Next from Paula (on Saturday, July 6, 2013): Ken Defies the Word “Impossible”