by John Maletta
This Wasn’t How it was Supposed to be!
It was a life-changing moment for me. It happened on a Thursday afternoon, just six days after the violent attack by two thugs from Delaware on Ryan Diviney and his friend. With a strange feeling of apprehension, I drove the 90 minute trip on I-79 from Pittsburgh to Morgantown and pulled into the parking lot at Ruby Memorial Hospital on the campus of WVU.
Upon exiting the car, I took a minute to check out the surroundings. WVU’s football stadium was on one side of the massive parking lot and the hospital sat on the other side on the lot. I tried to envision what it must have been like on a Saturday afternoon in the autumn to tailgate before a big game. I recall thinking to myself that I would have given anything to be meeting my old friend for a reunion prior to going to a game instead meeting in an Intensive Care Unit.
This wasn’t how it was supposed to be!
Going Back in Time
Let me take a step back to explain myself. Ken Diviney and I were roommates in college. We first met when fate (and the Residence Life & Housing Dept.) placed us on the same dormitory floor of Forest Manor dormitory at Clarion University. The “Manor” was somewhat of a freshman “rite of passage”. A high percentage of incoming freshmen were given housing in this primitive, poorly maintained, inconveniently located housing with horrendous food service (paints a pretty picture, doesn’t it?). We lived two rooms apart during our freshman year. This steel town kid and the kid from the countryside of Central Pennsylvania quickly became friends.
I enjoyed Ken’s razor-sharp, satirical humor. We hung out with fellow “Manorite” characters Todd Locy, Mark Ogorchock, Mike Riley, a couple AXP Crow brothers and a one-of-a-kind dude nicknamed Bobnoxious. Armed with my new buddy Ken, the pranks and jokes were 24/7. We did all of things that 18-year-old boys did….chased girls, snuck cheap booze into our dorm rooms, talked sports, competed at everything, and played our music way too loud.
[Ken’s Aside: Not to mention… Saran-Wrapping a buddies car… Carrying a floormate’s mattress — with him fast asleep in it — to the dormitory’s main courtyard for all to see… Spending random, crazy weekends at my other roommate’s “Cottage”… Driving to Pirate baseball games (one of which was snowed out!)… Making inappropriate use of a shrub that we named “Robert [the] Plant”… Designating a group mascot (Spike the Party Penguin)… And more than a few things that are best left unsaid.]
Ken was a disciplined, focused student. Even at age 18, he was vastly more responsible than I was at that tender, young age. I admired that about him. I clearly remember being with Ken and Bobnoxious at the very moment that Ken and Sue met. He was completely enamored with her from the moment they met. It was easy to see why. Her parents raised a wonderful young lady. She is intelligent, beautiful, friendly and sweet as chocolate. She is hands-down the best thing that ever happened to Ken. I remember telling the guys in college that someday I’d be toasting them at their 50th wedding anniversary.
Ken and Sue were married not too long after we all graduated from college. They moved out-of-state to pursue new jobs and began having a family. We were at different life stages at the time and we lost touch with each other for many years. It wasn’t until I joined Facebook in the summer of 2009 that we reconnected with each other. Ken and I picked up right where we left off, cracking jokes and busting on each other like 18 year olds. It was cool to see that he kept that trademark sense of humor.
Then just four months later, everything changed.
Nothing Could Have Prepared Me
Ken posted on Facebook that Ryan had been attacked outside of a convenience store in Morgantown. The cowardly attackers [Jonathan May and Austin Vantrease of Newark, Delaware] were on the run and the details were sketchy as the police detectives worked feverishly to figure out who did this to Ryan. Ryan’s life was in grave danger. My heart sank.
Ken is a self-made man and does not crave attention or sympathy, but I could not help but feel an overwhelming sense of empathy and compassion for Ken and Sue. As a parent, it made the feeling that much more acute. I closely followed Ken’s updates on Facebook. I wanted to help my old friend, but I didn’t know how. Like so many other people close to the Diviney family, we were heartbroken for them as we followed his posts on Facebook. The Diviney’s were staying at Ruby Memorial at the time to be close to Ryan, so I decided to stop by the hospital to visit with them.
With an odd feeling of numbness, I walked into Ruby Memorial and asked for directions to the ICU waiting area. Upon exiting the elevator, I immediately saw Ken and Sue sitting in the waiting area with Kari and Sue’s parents. They looked exhausted after six days of this hell. As I approached, Ken looked up at me, initially thinking that I was a doctor. We sat for nearly four hours, talking about Ryan and catching up on the past 20+ years. There were many tears shed. My goal was just to bring a smile to their faces and let them know that it appeared that Ryan’s Army was being organized – they did not need to face this challenge alone.
After a few hours together, the ICU nurse invited me into Ryan’s hospital room to visit.
Nothing in my life could have prepared for this moment.
Ryan was lying motionless in his bed. He was badly beaten. His brain had swelled so badly from this horrific beating that the surgeon’s had to lift his skull to relieve the pressure.
I looked at Ken and Sue’s eyes and I saw fear. Although their faces were covered with their blue surgical masks, their eyes told me everything. It was gut-wrenching. No parent should ever have to experience this. They are watching their son fight for his life. They have no idea who did this and why it happened. My mind ran wildly as I tried to process the gamut of powerful emotions that I was feeling. What monster could do this? Why did it have to happen to these good people? What the hell is the matter with humanity? Standing in that ICU room was the closest thing to an out-of-body experience that I had ever felt. I wanted so badly to trade places with them so that they didn’t have to go through this hell.
Meeting the compassionate, professional and gifted medical staff at Ruby Memorial gave me a level of comfort. They could not have been more kind and helpful to the Diviney family. Even in the first week after the attack, you could already see grassroots movement in the community to assist the Diviney family. After several hours together, we said our goodbyes and I made the trek back to Pittsburgh. I tried to keep my emotions in check, but I had to stop twice along I-79 because of the tears in my eyes.
As the weeks progressed, Ryan’s situation remained dicey. The wild “storming” episodes continued to imperil his life. The police did a masterful job of finding the cowards that attacked Ryan. The more I learned about the attacker’s behavior, the more enraged I became for my friend. Ken had to quit his job as he stayed at Ryan’s side through extended stays at several out-of-state rehabilitation facilities. As he worked to develop the ryansrally.org website to promote Ryan’s story, I decided to help promote Ryan’s Rally with our old friends via social media. Along with my younger brother and some old school buddies, we decided to promote a multi-state bicycle ride as the Ride For Ryan.
The response was amazing!
On Saturday, August 31st, we flew to San Francisco to begin the Ride for Ryan III. I’ve received numerous notes along with donation for Ryan’s Special Needs Trust from complete strangers that have heard about Ryan’s story and want to help him. These notes demonstrate to me that so many people have friends or family that have experienced traumatic brain injuries and that they deeply understand the Diviney’s pain.
Ryan’s story has taught me to be more empathetic to others. It has also taught me that there is much more love in this world than hatred. So many good people have banded together to create Ryan’s Army, all with the idea of letting the Diviney family know that we want to help them to shoulder part of this enormous burden.
To the Diviney family – know that you are loved and that We Got This!
Donations continue to be accepted for the Ride for Ryan Fundraiser. Three ways to donate:
- Mail your donation (payable to the Ryan Diviney Special Needs Trust) to: Ride for Ryan, ℅ John Maletta, 2306 Salem Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15237.
- Make on online donation with your credit card or PayPal account by using the One-time Online Donation button in the “Easy Online Donations!” section located in the upper-right sidebar of this page. Just put “Ride for Ryan” in the memo/note field.
- Donate with an Amazon Gift Card to firstname.lastname@example.org. You decide the amount and this is immediately available to Ryan!