Father and son share their experience of brain injury

Ryan and his father Mark spoke today at the National Paediatric Brain Injury Conference providing hope and inspiration as they described their life post-injury and rehabilitation. 

We’re sharing Ryan’s story, which appears on The Children’s Trust website along with the stories of other children. In July 2013 Ryan Smith, 16, from Lincolnshire was hit by a van as he was cycling to work and he suffered a life changing brain injury. Ryan had been hit by a van while cycling to work and had been left in a coma. His life was in the balance. At the time his family, although in shock and grief, released a heart-breaking image showing Ryan’s father, Mark, cradling his son’s head as he lay unconscious in a hospital bed, in the hope it would encourage other cyclists to wear helmets. Ryan remained in a coma for 123 days, and his family were told that he might not survive. Eye activity suggested he might be registering voices around him but there could be no certainty until, four months after the accident, Ryan opened his eyes. His family had been talking to him, including telling him he had passed all his GCSE exams; he had gained A grades in maths, English Language and Literature and an A* in physical education. Now it was his turn to talk. Ryan's dad, Mark said: “I asked him to say hello and he took a deep breath and said, ‘hello’. After jumping around for 10 minutes I composed myself and thought I’d push my luck and ask him to say dad. He did. Then he went and said “Mum.” Ryan and Mark both stayed at The Children’s Trust for nine months, where Ryan received intensive therapy. “The Children’s Trust is a fantastic place," says Mark. The 24/7 care at The Children's Trust supported Ryan to learn how to eat orally again, instead of through a tube into his stomach, and he developed his speech. By April, Ryan stood unaided. Ryan still has a long way to go. His left side is extremely weak still. He’s had operations on his feet to get a better angle on his feet to help him with walking. He’s back at school, he’s getting therapy there. One of Ryan’s biggest achievements is that he achieved an A in his GCSE maths. “The school has learnt that cognitively, he is still in there. It is just a process of plucking it out and encouraging him to do the things he can do,” Mark said. Ryan’s friends have been integral in his recovery, coming to visit him every week." Since we’ve been home, it’s not just about family all the time, and therapists. "It’s about his friends. He’s trying to emulate them again. His determination has shone through since he’s been home so we’ll just keep working with that." "Ryan has defied medics with his progress. From day one, his prognosis was bleak; he wasn’t expected to be here. We were supposed to prepare for demise. Then we were told he wasn’t going to be able to do anything again. And now he’s going from strength to strength. And long may that continue."
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