Ryan was a normal, healthy, 16 year old boy when he went to Sand Harbor at Lake Tahoe on a hot August afternoon in 1998 to “hang with his buds.” The cove before Sand Harbor was known as “The Rope Swing” because a rope hung there the kids used to swing out over the lake and drop in. The park rangers, believing it was too dangerous, removed it . However, that didn’t stop the kids from jumping off of the cliff into the lake. Ryan had done the jump “a hundred times” until he took his last one. As Ryan was running for a jump start to the edge of the cliff, a friend saw a girl swimming below and yelled, “No Ryan! Don’t jump.” Ryan tried to stop but his momentum was too strong. He slipped and fell. He hit the back of his head on the way down (which pushed his frontal lobes into his skull), hit the lake and sunk to the bottom. He was pulled to the surface by one of his “buds” two minutes later and was unconscious, had no pulse and was not breathing.
Through a series of miraculous events, Ryan lived long enough to be taken by helicopter to Renown Hospital. After being notified of Ryan’s accident, his parents, Michael and Alison Hume, rushed to the ICU at the hospital. A neurosurgeon met them and told them that Ryan was very seriously injured and that a portion of his right frontal lobe needed to be removed in order to save his life. It was touch and go for the next week but Ryan survived; although he remained in a coma for three weeks. Shortly thereafter, Ryan was transferred to Healthsouth Rehabilitation Hospital in Reno. A couple of weeks later, Ryan regressed back into a semi-vegitative state, in which he remained for the next four months. Everyone was devastated, including Ryan’s younger brothers, Andy and Spencer.
At a party one night, Michael and Alison were lamenting Ryan’s condition to another parent of a brian injured daughter. She told them that the exact same thing happened to her daughter so she called the neuorosurgeon back - something the doctors at Healthsouth neglected to do - and the surgeon was able to place a shunt in her daughter’s brain that resulted in her regaining consciousness. So Michael and Alison follewd her lead.
After the surgery to install the shunt, Ryan indeed began to recover but drifted back into a semi-vegitative state a few weeks later. The Healthsouth doctors consoled Michael and Alison by saying, “At least you tried. Too bad it didn’t work.” Never parents who gave up on their children, Michael and Alsion called the neorsurgeon back and explained what had happened and what the Healthsouth doctors told them. He replied that they should not give up hope. He said he would install an external drain in Ryan’s ventricals to measure the amount of fluid building up in his brain. Perhaps a larger shunt would be required. He was correct. Ryan’s brain was filling with fluid at a much larger rate than had been previously suspected, which put so much pressure on his brain that his body’s only solution was to shut down. After a new shunt was installed, Ryan once again began to recover consciousnees.
No longer believing that Healthsouth was the proper facility for Ryan, he was moved to Kentfield Reabilitaion Hosipal in Marin, CA. Alison and Michael moved their camper trailer to Marin and took turns traveling back and forth from Reno to Marin to be with Ryan. He continued to improve regaining his speech, some of his vision and limited mobility. After 361 days in the hospital, Ryan returned home on a feeding tube and in a veil bed. After 20 years of continued recovery, despite the most commonly accepted belief that the brain only recovers from injury during the first year, Ryan now lives on his own (in an assisted living group home), can walk with a walker and works in a sheltered workshop in Reno. He spends almost every weekend with his family.
One of the only good things to come out of his stay at Healthsouth was being introduced to the Head Injury Association of Northern Nevada (HIANN). Ryan and his family have been HIANN members since 1998. Ryan particpates in almost all of HIAAN’s activities and has many good friends in HIANN.
Hi!!! My name is Amelia. In September 2009 I had a seizure and coronary. I was in critical condition on life support in a hospital in San Diego for two weeks. My prognosis to survive was very low as I suffered major organ failure and brain damage due to the lack of oxygen to my brain. Then one day I woke-up from a two week comma. As I began to recover, most of my issues began to slowly heal. The hospital inserted a pacemaker/defibulator in my chest and sent me on my way, with no instructions or help.
My parents took me to their home in Lake Tahoe, where I have lived ever since. I have been able to fully recover, except for my acquired brain injury. As time goes on, I know I am getting better; however it is a very slow uphill battle. My biggest challenge is finding support services to help me with my brain injury. There are few services in the State of Nevada to support individuals with brain injuries especially in Northern Nevada. I want to become myself again and I know that over time, science may find ways to help me and other people with brain injuries. More than anything I want to become a productive person that does not have to depend on anyone.
I want a job and would love to go back to college, but due to my brain injury and lack of short term memory, these things that I want so much have been very difficult to attain. However, with the help of the Head Injury Association of Northern Nevada’s (HIANN) programs and all of the wonderful people I met through HIANN, I got accepted into the Starbucks Academy for people with disabilities. I was offered a job after completing my class and currently work 24 hours per week in their Distribution Center in Minden. I just had my first work year anniversary. When not working, I continue spending most of my time on improving my health and cognitive abilities, and I volunteer for six different agencies that help others.
As my parents get older, they worry about the day when they will no longer be around to help and provide for me. Where will I go? What will I do? Will new scientific discoveries help me with my brain injury? I plan on continuing to work hard and improve as much as I can. I am thankful that I survived my seizure and get to live near Lake Tahoe, but I know a lot of others that have had brain injuries that have little in the way of a support structure from family or the State. We need help and we are willing to work hard together to improve our situation.