by Paula Yocom
Christmas Eve of 2010 found the Diviney family once again sitting in the waiting room of a hospital. Ryan was in intensive care, this time due to a bout of pneumonia. The hospital was quiet with minimal staff. I felt the loneliness as soon as I entered the building. I wound my way through the halls and saw nary a soul. Upon reaching the intensive care unit waiting room, I saw Ken, Sue and Kari sitting together. A few ladies from our group had dropped off some Christmas presents. Some went to pray. I watched as the Diviney family stoically sat in plastic chairs, expressing their gratitude for the gifts. Everything felt surreal and wrong. And yet – the ties that bind the Diviney family held them close throughout the silent night.
Ryan overcame yet another obstacle in the avalanche of suffering foisted upon him. It was then I realized there was something unusual happening here. I had read on Ken’s blog that Ryan had survived fevers as high as 109.8 while he was at Shepherd. He had also endured days of endless, agonizing pain, writhing and moaning as his mother, father and sister worked to console him. Ryan had been on the brink of death many times, the doctors always asking Ken and Sue the same question, “what do you want to do?”
Their reply was always the same, “we want you to help our son.” The Divineys quickly realized that medicine has its limitations, and that the path for Ryan’s healing would not come in a hospital. It would happen when Ken decided to challenge preconceived notions about brain injury and dive into a stormy sea of the unknown. He knew it was sink or swim, and he would be damned if his son would go down without a fight.
This was when I saw Ryan and Ken Diviney go into action.
His Name is “Dad”
I needed to drop something off one day and gingerly walked in through the back door on the lower level. It took me a moment to process what I was seeing – a standing frame, a cart holding a large assortment of carefully organized medications, an HBOT, a suctioning machine, monitors, IV’s, boxes of medical supplies, a large blender, a gamut of nutritional supplements and two beds side by side. In the midst of all this, I saw Ken dressed in scrubs using a lift to gently situate Ryan onto a therapy table. He glanced over and I could see the circles beneath his eyes.
His exhaustion was apparent.
He began to put Ryan through a series of stretching exercises meant to improve his flexibility. He spoke to Ryan in a soft, even tone always explaining what he was doing and praising Ryan for his effort. Ryan wasn’t able to move on his own so Ken would gently guide his arms and legs throughout the therapy. I saw them as being a team, both on the same page, working hard toward a common goal. Together they were beginning to ascend a mountain as high as Everest. And after what I saw, not for one second did I doubt they could do it. God gave Ryan an extraordinary gift to help him on his journey of healing, and his name is “Dad.”
Belief in Each Other
Feeling a bit overwhelmed after witnessing Ken’s transformation into doctor, nurse, therapist, pharmacist and nutritionist, I wondered – what exactly was Ken’s plan? He had no one to guide him, no one to make recommendations and no one to make the hard decisions. Ken was now on call 24/7 as he taught himself skills that most people get advanced degrees in order to learn. This was done in spite of constant worry, stress and minimal sleep. Ryan was still storming at this point, with his vitals becoming unstable at times and UTI’s plaguing him. He suffered from respiratory problems, skin rashes and eye infections.
Ken would search relentlessly and eventually find effective ways to prevent these problems. The underlying factor through all of this was the intangible – a steely will and stubborn determination that pushed Ken and Ryan up the mountain. It seemed they took turns motivating each other. They understood what was at stake and were willing to endure the pain this journey required. Father and son may not have been able to see what was over the horizon, but they held onto a certain knowledge that moved them forward when the horizon seemed out of reach.
They believed in each other.
Read Part 1: On the Trail of a Miracle (June 1, 2013)
Next: The Enormity of Traumatic Brain Injury