Sue and I pulled into Ruby Memorial Hospital less than three hours after being called to say our son was unresponsive. I remember Sue nearly taking-out the security guards getting into the parking garage. It was game day in Morgantown (Louisville was in town) and the police were securing the lots. Sue was already past the guards and pulling into the parking space before giving them any reason for basically crashing the barricade. I remember she offered no apology.
We were escorted to Ryan’s room. It was room ICU #1. I turned the corner of the door and all the air left my lungs. I struggled to keep my knees from buckling, but always held Sue in my sight to make sure she was stable. Sue lost all sense of control and the tears streamed. Ryan’s bed was surrounded by so much equipment we could barely get to him. He had tubes and wires all over his body. There were at least fifteen IV bags hanging with a network of connections. The first thing I noticed was he was on a respirator. Is this life support, I wondered?
The nurse told us the doctor would like to see us. We were taken to a “family consultation room”. I knew this was not good that we were being led away from the public. Sue and I just stood there, in each others’ arms waiting for the inevitable. This was so much worse than I ever imagined. This is when I whispered in Sue’s ear “We Got This”, that is now our mantra.
“Your son is in grave condition”, we are told. “He is not likely to survive the next seventy-two hours”, the doctor explains. “He has suffered massive insult to a large area of his brain. It is swelling and it will kill him”, the doctor went on.
We are asked if we wanted them to preform surgery to remove a portion of his skull to allow the brain to expand. We immediately said we did. The doctor looks at us squarely, as though he is a mechanic interested if we want our car fixed or scraped and says, “Your son has a less than 50/50 chance of pulling through this surgery. Even still, he’s not out-of-the-woods for days. I must tell you, even if he survives the next few days, this severe of injuries normally doesn’t turn out well”. We knew he was suggesting that we let Ryan die.
Ryan made it through the surgery. I quickly learned how to read his Intra-cranial Pressure (ICP) gauge that hung by his bedside. His head swelled and receded. Swelled and receded. It was an endless cycle. Then, after several days, it stabilized. The same day, his lung collapsed and he fought for air. Doctors flooded his room with so many carts we were pinned into the corner. Somehow — and I still don’t know how — Ryan pulled through it.
This was when I made the decision that I would never give up. If Ryan won’t quit, then neither will I.
My education began. I questioned everything. Most nurses and doctors understood I was trying to learn, but a few took it as a challenge to their abilities. We made sure they weren’t assigned to Ryan ever again. The nurse who taught me the most was Cassandra. Her intelligence was off the charts, but more so, she was a caring women (and stunningly attractive). She spent untold hours with me in the middle of the night explaining everything. When not in Ryan’s room, she sat at a small desk outside his door where she could see everything. She was my benchmark for the standard of care that Ryan should receive. Sue and I would rate each nurses by asking “is she Cassandra-good?”.
I wish I could remember how many times a doctor would look to us, with Ryan in distress, and ask us how we wanted to proceed. Allow me to translate: Do you want your son to live? I distinctly remember the last time I was asked this. I was nearly three months after the attack. We were at Shepard Center in Atlanta. Ryan’s heart rate would plummet and a defibrillator would shock him back to life. Let’s just say, I made it abundantly clear what our wishes were and no one ever dared ask again.
You see, Sue and I agreed that once we reached a decision, we would never look back. I wish I could say I was true to our agreement.
So much torments me to this day.
Mike M says
You’re all courageous examples of love and family strength. I honor your commitment and difficult journey.
Maybe Ryan will wake up. Maybe he won’t. In any event, the fact that he’s touched so many lives- lives of people who had never met him during his conscious life- is a testament to my belief that Ryan managed to pull through because there was something he was meant to do; something he still needs to do. His story has an important message, and even if Ryan never gets the chance to tell it, I’m glad so many people are doing that for him.
Gail Doyle says
Ken, Glad you both made that decision or i would not have known Ryan and the wonderful people in Ashburn and I thank you and God that Ryan is getting better each day . Here for you all. Please don’t ever let your decisions haunt you You made the right one… Believe that, RYAN WILL GET BETTER!!!!!! Love gail
Lisa from WV says
All that you do for your son is beautiful. Your family’s strength amazes me. Ryan is always in my prayers, even though I do not know you all personally.
Ken, our prayers, especially on this day, go out to Ryan, you and Sue. You have been such incredible parents to Ryan and that has been such an inspiration to John and I. Ryan’s fight for life just proves that you taught him so well and one day he will thank you for giving him that fighting spirit. In our book, you are the defination of a hero.
Ryan was meant to survive, and we were meant to have the blessing of knowing him. One would have to answer the call in order to understand this.
Thanks for all your posts today Ken! It is clear to me after reading this one in particular that Ryan is on a mission and that he began it as soon as he lost consciousness. No one knows what that mission is, but you are getting him there one day at a time. I can’t wait to find out what his mission is and pray for the day that when he wakes up and regains control of his life!
You and your family are constantly in my thoughts and prayers!
We thank God every day that Ryan did survive and that he has you and Sue by his side fighting for him every step of the way. Ryan is still defying the odds, getting stronger all the time. I can’t imagine a more difficult journey for parents to take with their child; then again, I’ve never met a better, more loving team of parents than you and Sue. We pray for your continued strength to persevere for Ryan’s sake. Your decision to never give up on him was absolutely the right one, and God has been equipping you for it ever since. The only thing that has changed is that the “we” in your mantra encompasses so many more people who have fallen in love with your precious son. God is a big part of Team Diviney too, and with Him all things are possible. Stay strong and keep the faith. You are more than conquerors!
Gail Doyle says
So very true Rita
A. L. says
God didn’t let him survive. Doctors did. If God gave a damn about “Team Diviney,” maybe He wouldn’t have put Ryan in a coma to begin with.
Evelyn Boxley says
We are all here for you everyday. The example your family has shown us is incredible and hope that we extend to you all the love that you have shared with us. You TRULY “have got this”
Always here Always praying. Ryan is Relevant, your family is strong and your friends have an undying loyalty and love for the 4 of you. The Diviney’s are inspirational in the purest way and Ryan is strong and determined, what Ryan was taught and learned everyday leading up to November 7, 2009 is how and why Ryan fights everyday…PURE UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.
Angela Frisby says
Keeping Ryan in my thoughts today. Sometimes when I think I have a stressful day, my thoughts drift to what your family goes through on a daily basis. I always remind myself that Ken, Sue, Ryan and Kari manage to wake up in the morning and face what the day brings despite what they’ve been through. That thought keeps me in check.
its no ones role to play god….
Hmmmm… I guess no one told George Burns.
Good one, Ken.
Pittsburgh Here says
Anonymous is obviously not a mom or dad…at least I hope not. Wow – just wow.
Or lives in Delaware.
Carla Liberty says
God is capitalized, Anonymous. Then again, you probably didn’t know that because God obviously doesn’t “make the cut” in your life.
Jill in Morgantown says
Good one Carla!!!! Amen
Gail Doyle says
I agree with you Carla .What makes anonymous think anyone was playing God ? Decisions have to be made and the best was made by Ken and Sue ‘
Carla Liberty says
“This was when I made the decision that I would never give up. If Ryan won’t quit, then neither will I.”
He is fighting so hard to come back to you. You are giving him every possible avenue to make that happen. I fully expect that when (not if) he awakes completely, we will hear the words, “Thank you for not giving up on me.”
Everyone needs someone to never give up on them.
Vicky Scott says
Absolutely agree! Ken, I can so relate. I honor and admire you and Sue!
Happy that you could write yesterday and today and appreciate reading the blog. You represent not only Ryan, but so many others like him, who need the love, care, and support of humanity to say… you still matter, you still are valuable, you are dearly loved and cared for, and I lay down my life to care for you. Bless you both.
“We Got This!” Our mantra, too — the tie that binds us together. Yes, Ryan, We Got This in ways I never dreamed possible. Here for you, together — and always — SHSP with much hope.
Just always remember: YOU know your child better than anyone else….that includes doctors and nurses. Never let someone else make decisions regarding your child if you can do it.
It’s very easy to make the decision ‘to pull the plug’. I have always lived by the decision that my daughter would never give up on me, therefore I will not give up on my daughter.
Sounds like you made the same decision regarding your son. Hang in there.
Ken, Don’t torment yourself with your decision to love and protect your family. You would also be tormented if you let Ryan go any of the times you were asked. God will know when he needs Ryan in heaven. For now he needs Ryan here with his family to show us so much about family, community and what is REALLY important in life. God bless you and carry you through this rough week.
A. L. says
God isn’t keeping him alive. Doctors are. If it were left up to God, he would be dead.
You keep going, Ken. This is good. This heartache needs to be gotten out.