They say that what does not kill you, will only make you stronger........................I never dreamed that the day would come when I could actually relate to this statement.
Let me start with the fact that I have always admired those people who seem to smile and carry on when faced with life's challenges. Especially those challenges that completely alter your ability to live in a manner in which you have always been accustomed. There are those who literally crumble in the face of adversity, unable to accept the difference the "event" has made in their life. Then there are those who tend to grasp the alteration, mourn the change of how it used to be, and then slowly rebuild their life. Embracing those challenges with new hope, faith and a strong yearning to survive.
Let me share with you the story about my son Ryan....
In 2010 Ryan, then 29 years old, had started a new, very exciting venture in his life. He was offered a job working for Trek Travel, a well known Bicycle company based in Wisconsin, and had accepted the position to work for this company as their logistics Manager. This was a bicycle rider's dream come true, and the job that Ryan had dreamed of; It gave him the opportunity to work, and travel while experiencing his passion for bicycle riding. Young, single and ready to conquer the world, Ryan started working in his new role in March of 2010......little did he know what the future would bring to him.
Fast forward to March 6th, 2011, my husband and I were at my daughter’s home for a family birthday gathering in Weymouth. It is funny how you just never forget the details of where and when something terrible happens in your life .......
Randomly my daughter happened to check her phone for messages and noticed an unfamiliar Face Book message from the owners of Trek, John and Tania Burke, asking her to contact them. We immediately made the call and learned that Ryan had been in a terrible accident. At the time he was in Spain on a job assignment. The message was quite alarming as it was intended to be. Apparently Ryan had been in a very bad accident and was in a hospital in Girona Spain, soon to be transferred via Ambulance to a much larger hospital in Barcelona. We were told only that he had been in some kind of accident when riding his bike, but were unable to give details. What we were about to learn on the fateful day would change all of our lives forever....and the person that would be most severely affected would be our son Ryan.
On this day in March, Ryan had been riding home from work. He was riding his bike on a dirt walking path. Nothing unusual for him because he had done this every day while in Spain, and he has been riding back-road paths since he was able to ride a bike without training wheels. While riding back to his hotel, he recounts that he must have hit a rock, or some kind of uneven ground that caused him to somersault over his handlebars and land, his whole body force, on his neck. Miles from home, alone on a walking path in Spain, Ryan lie motionless, knowing immediately that something catastrophic had happened to him. He never lost consciousness, he knew every minute what was happening, in severe pain as he lay, unable to move, barely able to breath, until an angel appeared. An angle by the name of Anna.
Within, what Ryan guesstimates to be about 15 minutes or so, Anna and her friend were walking nearby and came across his motionless, crumbled body. She bent down and asked him, in broken English, if he were all right. He answered her, with full awareness of his circumstance, to find the cell phone in his backpack and call for emergency assistance right away. Within what seemed to be hours the emergency help arrived. By this time Ryan was fully aware that something terrible had happened....but he had no idea of how his life was about to change. And here he was, thousands of miles from home, without family near.
Back in Boston, before we had time to even think, Ron and I were on a plane to Spain. Trek arranged the flight , the translator who would meet us at the airport in Spain, as well as all the other travel details we were so unable to take care of at such short notice. Our minds were in a state of shock. We left the party in a complete daze, went home, packed in less than 30 minutes, called a neighbor to drive us into the airport, and within two hours of the phone call in Weymouth, we were on our way to Spain with absolutely no idea of what condition Ryan was in, or what we would have to face once we were at the hospital with him. Seven hours later we were landing in Spain, meeting with Penny, our interpreter and guide for the next four weeks.
I am not sure I can tell the story in detail of the four weeks in Spain, and truly tell it the way we lived it. The three of us were literally living in what seemed to be a horribly, bad dream. As my husband and I made it to the hospital, we were led to a small office where we met Ryan's doctor and charge nurse, we hadn't even seen our son yet. Through our interpreter we learned the consequence of what had happened to Ryan. Again, it was as if we were in a bad dream. Words were spoken to us and we did hear what was said, but we could not process the painful words being spoken. We were experiencing system failure, from Information overload.
We learned that or son had been severely injured while riding his bike home - he had suffered severe trauma to his spinal cord (C3,4,and 5, this part of the spinal cord is located in the neck area) that would cause him to he paralyzed from the nipple line down. We sat in that cold office, listening to those awful words, nodding our heads and trying desperately to absorb this very disturbing, unbelievable news. News that absolutely no one ever wants to hear, nevermind a parent. In as little as 45 minutes of arriving at the hospital, we learned that our son was never going to be able to move the same again. How could something that had brought him so much pleasure since he was a little boy, take so much away. How can this be.....something is terribly wrong, this cannot be right, there is some kind of mistake.....
I will repeat: What does not kill you will only make you stronger.....and from that day in March, sitting in that cold, dank hospital office, we had no idea of the lessons we were about to learn, or the trials that lay before us. We would be pushed to our limits of acceptance, and find new meaning in the definition of hope. Yes, today we are stronger having been through such a life event, but I have to tell you that our strength came from our son Ryan. It was only through his courage, tenacity, and resilience that we are here today in 2016, almost 6 years after his accident, doing just fine. Yes, Ryan is rebuilding his life, in his new body, and doing so with grace and never ending courage. Are there challenging days? Of course! But it is amazing how he has rebuilt his life and moved forward with purpose and direction.
I cannot say enough kind words about John and Tania, owners of Trek Travel and all the wonderful employees who helped us on our journey that day in March and for months (even to this day) after Ryan's accident. Not to mention the outpouring of love and support we received from family and friends. It humbles me to think of all the wonderful people in our lives, never mind the people we have met throughout this whole experience. We are truly blessed.
I have so much to tell you about Ryan and how he has embraced his new life as a Quadriplegic. Until then, remember that at the end of the day all you need is hope and strength.....hope that it will get better..... and the strength to hold on until it does.