Ryan was a high school senior looking forward to college and a future career as an environmental scientist when on January 20, 2020, he experienced a severe spinal cord injury. While snowboarding at Sugar Bowl Ski Resort; he took a jump and overshot it; he landed on his sacrum and sustained a C7 burst fracture. Ryan’s friends and a ski patrol officer rushed him to a first aid area. He was flown by helicopter to Renown Regional Medical Center. Dr. Shane Abdunnur, a fellowship-trained neurological surgeon at Swift Spine Institute, performed spine surgery to repair the damaged area and stabilize and relieve pressure from his spine. “Dr. Abdunnur was excellent; it all went exactly as it was supposed to, and the care has been phenomenal,” said Yolanda, Ryan’s mom.
Following his surgery, Ryan spent ten days in the ICU at Renown; he started minor physical therapy to get basic movements back during this period. He was flown to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center for more intensive physical therapy. At the medical center, Ryan was soon walking again in full leg braces. “The swimming pool was part of my recovery also. I’d hold onto the edge of the pool and walk,” he remembers. The doctors were collectively amazed at Ryan’s recovery. One said they’d only seen two patients with similar injuries walk. Ryan returned home on March 12. “Within ten days of returning home on March 12, Ryan ditched the braces and crutches and began walking without assistance,” said his father, Rich. The COVID-19 pandemic was capturing the world’s attention, and the United States began a nationwide shutdown. Ryan didn’t have access to physical therapy for about six weeks. He continued his recovery at home and started attending physical therapy at Swift Spine Institute with Torrey Schweickert at the end of April. “I had a great experience with Swift Spine Institute physical therapist Torrey and PT aide Dustin,” he shares.
By the end of the summer, Ryan could get back to surfing and skateboarding while spending time with family in the San Diego area. Incredibly, Ryan accepted a job at the Sugar Bowl resort for the winter 2020 / 2021 season. He’s able to snowboard nearly every day. He attends physical therapy at the High Fives Foundation twice a week to continue his recovery. Ryan’s continued rehab focuses on sensitivity and strength issues in his lower extremities.
“Recovering from a sports-related injury requires a lot of patience. Please try to stay positive and don’t get down on yourself too much. It’s important to view each small win as a step in the right direction,” Ryan shares.