It was Saturday morning, I was studying for a test for a class in college, the phone rang and it was my brother Casey on the other end. I could hear the panic and worry in his voice. He said Ryan crashed his snowmobile and was being airlifted to St. Mary's Hospital. He knew he had a broken leg, but he just kept saying it was really bad Lauren and that he was sorry. Still to this day I can remember just how my brothers voice sounded, its something I will never forget. I rushed upstairs to tell my mom and with in minutes we were out of the house driving to Rochester. I told my mom that I had a bad feeling that something was going to happen when they left. My brother even tried to convince me to go with, and I said that I wanted them to have some guy time together. On the way down I called my cousin Trudy who immediately started praying on the phone. We arrived to the emergency room and I could hardly get out to the nurse that my fiancé was in an accident. She tried to calm me down and put me in a waiting room. I remember going into the room he was in, seeing all the nurses running around. Ryan was conscious at the time and the doctors asked him to move his feet and there was nothing. My heart sank, this wasn't good, I wondered if Ryan would ever walk again, if he would even survive this.
My brother arrived to the hospital and I could see the fear in his eyes. We asked what happened and all he said is that they were about 5 miles down the trail, he turned his back to look for Ryan and saw his snowmobile rolling. He turned around and found Ryan with his back against a tree. Ryan was conscious and tried to move, my brother told him stay still and that he would get help. Casey ended up having to leave Ryan because he didn't have cell phone service where he was, luckily there was a house not to far back and he was able to call 911 there. Shortly after first responders arrived to help. Ive never asked my brother much about that day, I know its a hard day to talk about and Im sure part of him blames himself for what happened. Ryan doesn't remember the accident but we know he hit three trees, one with his head, his leg and with his back. A freak accident, some poorly marked trails, but there was no alcohol or reckless driving involved.
Once Ryan was moved up to the ICU we were informed of the extent of his injuries. T5 burst, which caused T4 and T6 to pinch on the spinal cord. Cracked C2 and all the ligaments in his neck were torn. Broken femur in his left leg, left lung was collapsed and also a closed head injury. Ryan had surgery the following day to repair his spine, they placed rods in his back, put a halo on and a turtle shell. They also put a chest tube in and placed him on a ventilator. He had another surgery to place a rod in his leg to repair his broken femur. Doctors said he shouldn't have survived his accident let alone survive his surgery. But by the grace of God he did. After the surgery we had to worry about infection, and pneumonia which could possibly kill him.
Ryan was in the hospital from February 23, to the first part of April. He doesn't remember his time in the ICU or in physical therapy. He also doesn't remember his accident but does remember the helicopter ride to the hospital. At the end of May he had his halo and turtle shell removed and returned to St. Marys for the month of June for therapy to learn how to live his new life in a wheelchair. Ryan's spinal cord injury is considered an incomplete spinal cord injury, meaning his spinal cord was never completely severed, just pinched. The area in which Ryan sustained his injury also controls his bodies temperature regulation and he has no use or feeling from mid chest down. It took a long time for his body to complete heal. Ryan went into the hospital weighing about 200 pounds and came out weighing 133. For someone who is 6 feet tall, 133 is pretty small. Ryan's doctors said he would never gain weight back into his lower extremities after they atrophied so bad but he has. Most people when they meet Ryan for the first time wonder why he is in a wheelchair because he doesn't look like the typical paraplegic whose legs can be pretty small. Thankfully Ryan also has put back on weight and muscle and looks like the person I was engaged to before he got hurt. There was a lot of things Ryan's doctors said he would never be able to do again and he has proved them wrong on many. Ryan took his injury head on. He never once wanted to give up. He had his days and yes he still does, but he always says the alternative is much worse.
Last night Ryan and I were going through some things I saved from that time in our life. Newspaper article on him, photos, cards and the emotions definitely crept back in and I started to think about how challenging this post will be to write. I had a dear friend remind me that everything that happened is in the past and to look at how far we have come, thats what matters. He was right. God definitely has a plan for each and everyone of us, Ryan's accident is apart of God's plan for him. We may not understand it but we just have to trust and have faith that there is a reason for it. Ryan has told me a few times that he wouldn't trade his life for anything. Our faith in God and support from our family and friends helped get us through it.
I had a few people ask me why I stayed and even Ryan told me to go find someone else so I wouldn't have to live this life. I was 22 when Ryan got hurt, he was 26, we were engaged and all I knew was that I loved him. You don't love someone because they can walk, you love them for who they are. I knew life would be different but I wasn't afraid of it. I knew that God had a plan for us. Ryan and I don't sit here in anticipation waiting for him to walk again or for there to be a cure for paralysis. We are just living life. We know that someday when we are called home to be with the good Lord, that God will heal us of all our pain and injuries. The bible teaches us this. Ryan will walk again, it just may not be on this earth.
Im not sure how I or our families managed to get through the hardship of Ryan's accident, I was in the process of trying to graduate from dental hygiene school and some days I know I was just trudging through, trusting that God would get all of us through it. We have wonderful parents who on the days we struggled were there to pick us up. My struggle was nothing compared to what Ryan went through. We know that if we didn't have our faith in God that we wouldn't have made it. So here we are 8 years later, happy, and healthy!