On August 8th 2015, Ryan suffered a traumatic injury to his neck after diving into shallow water at Lake Hartwell. He broke his C7 vertebrae and suffered damaged to C6. He was paralyzed from the chest down and suffered loss of feeling/strength to parts of his hands and arms on impact. Ryan was rushed to the nearest trauma center where they quickly realigned his spine, and within a few short days gave him surgery to reconstruct the damage to his spine. His spinal chord was very badly bruised, and swollen but not severed. Meaning his injury is considered incomplete. Exactly one week after his surgery, he was transported back home to Atlanta to continue his care and begin rehab at the well known and respected rehab facility, The Shepherd Center.
Ryan and I feel blessed to have such a facility right in our backyard and it’s been comforting knowing he is in the best hands. Since Ryan’s injury he has progressed in his abilities very quickly and maintained a positive attitude to the best of his ability. He continues to work hard daily to regain his independence. We have learned through the Shepherd Center that a full life is still possible, just in a different ways and with the right tools. While no promises have been made as to whether Ryan will be able to walk again, we choose to trust in God and remain hopeful that one day he will.
December 14, 2015
Since we moved home 🙂
By Sarah Gibson — Dec 12, 2015 2:19pm
So it’s been about a month since I’ve updated you all so bare with me. This is going to be a long post. When I last filled you in Ry had just come home and we were beginning to get adjusted to our new life. When we first got home, Ryan still needed some assistance with things like getting in and out of the shower, bed, the car, getting dressed, the couch, turning in bed at night, help with certain aspects of his personal care, and even just making something to eat. During his stay at Shepherd he had learned how to do all of these things and had the technique and strength to do them. He just wasn’t comfortable doing a lot of it alone yet.
Ry and I are so lucky that we live so close to Shepherd because this allowed us to live at home during his “day program” therapy. Day program is basically like in patient therapy in that the patients are doing therapy there Monday through Friday from 9 to 4. Most families are not from the area so after inpatient therapy they will usually take time to go home but then have to return to living at Shepherd for the duration of their out patient therapy. As you can imagine they are very home sick and ready to go by the time therapy was over. We know how blessed we are to have Shepherd right in our backyard. We never really had a chance to miss our family, friends, or our home town.
However not living right on campus meant that we would have to get up very early to start Ryans routine, while still allowing time for me to get ready, and battle Atlanta traffic. One of Ry’s daily struggles is with low blood pressure. (Most quadriplegics struggle with this.) He has to get up 30 minutes before he even plans to get out of bed to take his medication so that he won’t pass out when he gets up. He also has to wear a binder that goes around his core and compression socks to help with his low blood pressure. Then he has to struggle with his body to sit up. Without his core it’s a very difficult move. He’s very good at it, but I think it’s fair to say the act of actually getting out of bed in the morning is his least favorite part of the day. He says that’s when he “feels it” the most. So some days we run a little behind because it’s just hard to get up.
Once he’s up I help him with his morning routine, get him dressed and head out the door. I would usually get up earlier then him to get ready myself. We do this every day. As the last month has progressed, Ry has become more independent. He is now getting in and out of bed, the couch, the shower, and doing all personal care on his own. He’s even doing most of his car transfers on his own. He still needs some help getting dressed when we are in a rush but if we have the time he can do that almost completely on his own as well.
His function in his hands is still improving as well. He’s now able to touch his thumb and pinky together which shows improved dexterity. His grip is getting stronger all the time. Without a solid grip though things like pouring a glass of milk are still challenging, but Ry pushes himself to try these things any ways. These may sound like small things but for Ryan’s level of injury it’s a really big deal that he has any of this function at all. A lot of times quadriplegics with his level of injury can’t open their hands all the way making it difficult to use your fingers. So when Ry can grasp and turn the volume nob in the car, it might go unnoticed because it’s something that comes naturally to most but is a huge win for Ry.
So with the stress and the rush of the weekly morning routine struggle, we treasure the weekends now more than ever. We try to get out as much as possible. At first a full day of running errands seemed like a lot. It was overwhelming with oblivious people everywhere, full handicapped parking, stores and places that lack accommodations for the handicapped (illegal!), and having to take care of personal care while out was so frustrating. It almost felt easier to stay inside sometimes and sometimes we did. We opted to stay in and do nothing because it was just easier than facing the day. No, it probably wasn’t the best thing to do. But when you’ve been through what we’ve been through, sometimes, needing some time to just be still is ok.
I would say that for every time we stayed in though, we went went out at least 5 times. We’ve done everything from going to the movies, dinner with friends, to late night game nights with family. We’ve taken the time for a couple of date nights 🙂 Ry and I usually spend our “dating” anniversary in the mountains but it just felt like too much this year so instead Ry took me to the Georgia aquarium the first time. (Yes even though I’ve lived in Atlanta my whole life) It was a lovely evening and incredibly accommodating for wheelchair users.
We also went to the VERY CROWDED Christmas tree lighting at Avalon with friends. It was freezing (Ry has trouble regulating his temperate so he had to bundled up) it was packed, and people cut in front of Rys wheelchair. Despite all of these little challenges it was still awesome! All of those things felt like obstacles we overcame and still had a great time! It also helped that we had great company 🙂
We had thanksgiving with my family this year and Ry got dressed up for the first time since his injury 🙂 Putting on jeans or slacks is extremely difficult for Ry do himself. The stiffness makes it hard to pull up and the buttons are nearly impossible to do himself so he had avoided it until that day. We worked together to get him dressed and he looked so handsome (As usual) and we had an awesome time with family 🙂
Ryan also had the chance to go on another weekend hunting trip with Shepherd! He could bring one guest because they were going to be staying on private property. So Ry invited his older brother Chris. Ry had taken on enough of his own care that he could handle a whole weekend without his primary caregiver, me 🙂 So we spent our first weekend apart since Ryans injury. While I was a little nervous about it, I was more excited that he would have the opportunity to see how independent he had become and to have quality time with his brother. I also got the chance for some me time, and of course had a girls night out. I also had some quality time with my family so I would say overall it was some healthy time apart.
In Ry’s 4 months at Shepherd he has made a few friends along the way. Shepherd is full of the most resilient people and it’s been great to get to know them and share in the struggle. It’s helped Ry feel less alone. Among the many that we have had the pleasure of befriending, was our friend Drew. He shared Ryan’s positive attitude and determination. He and his family were always such great company. Before he went back home to Alabama, we had the chance to take him to the Sundial at the Westin for the best view of Atlanta. We shared a few drinks, a few laughs, and said our “see you laters.” 🙂
Next week is Ryan’s last week in day program therapy. Ryan is excited for a break because he has been working so hard, I’m going to take a moment to be honest with all of you. In a lot of ways things have become easier with time. Ryan only gets more independent with each passing day. Just last week he passed his driving evaluation which clears him to drive as soon as we get a vehicle modified for him. That’s amazing! Most quadriplegics have to wait A YEAR before they are able to take the evaluation and Ry passed with flying colors. So independence is on the horizon, it’s a certainty.
What isn’t a certainty, and what makes time passing so hard.. Is that with each passing day, week, month.. It gets harder to keep believing that this isn’t forever.
Now I’m not saying we have conceded to the idea that this is forever. It’s only been four months and there still so much recovering to do. But at the same time, it’s been 4 long months. Ry has been working so damn hard, and has willed his body over and over again to do things it flat out refuses to do. Ryan has a really great attitude most of the time but when it’s hard, it’s really hard. It’s difficult to find a balance keeping the faith that one day he will get up out of his chair but at the same time adjusting your mentality to the idea that this could be forever. In order to survive, to move past what has happened and live your life we’ve had to learn how to think about this long term because it’s a real possibility. So believing, keeping the faith, is hard work and something that we have to do actively everyday. Some days we forget to. By no means am I saying that we’ve given up in anyway. Just that this is a real test in patience, letting go of control, and is a hard lesson to learn this way.
We’re not done fighting though. Once Ryan completes his therapy he plans to take about a month off to just relax. He deserves it after all the hard work he has done. We are making plans for Ryan to go slowly go back to work in the new year with he is very excited about. In the meantime, I have been researching and looking other methods of continued therapy such as acupuncture, massage therapy, chiropractors, and hopefully utilizing a facility that rehab approach is a little different. They work to retrain the brain to recognize signals from his body below injury. These treatments are costly but worth it if it gives him a grater chance at waking or even just to improve his quality of life. This and anything else we can find or do to help Ry along in his recovery.
As always thank you for your love and support. Thank you for your continued prayers because God has been and will continue to be good to us. More updates to come soon.
November 11, 2015
We have been sharing our story through a couple of different sources, but in an effort to consolidate where I update we will now be using HelpHOPELive and Facebook to provide updates and as a source for donations in place of Caringbridge and GoFundMe.com. So please look here for for updates on Ryan’s progress, opportunities to help, and as a source for donations. HelpHOPELive assures fiscal accountability of funds raised and tax deductibility for donors. Donors can be sure that funds donated will be used only to pay or reimburse medically-related expenses. To make a tax-deductible donation to this fundraising campaign, click on the Donate Now button.For more information, please contact HelpHOPELive at 800.642.8399.
As always thank you for the continued love and support! God bless!