Ryan Diviney’s Sad, Expensive Ordeal
Sometimes, life can deliver blows so devastatingly brutal they leave you on your knees, gasping for breath, aching for answers. So it was for Ryan Diviney, a young man from Virginia whose full-of-promise life was cut dreadfully short in the early morning hours of November 7, 2009.
The violent assault that stole the arc of Ryan’s story took place near the campus of the West Virginia university he attended. Thugs, one of whom would only serve seven months for his crime, sucker punched him and then kicked his unconscious form in the head in protest over differing opinions on a sports team.
Exuberant “before” photos on a site his family established to memorialize him show Ryan engaged in heartbreakingly ordinary events: celebrating his first wide-eyed Christmas, driving a dune buggy on the beach, playing miniature golf in Ocean City. The photos that follow are much harder to look at. Suddenly, Ryan is a battered fragment of his former self, his body punctured with tubes to keep him alive, dreadfully sick in the ICU with his little sister Kari planting a kiss on his head, prone in a hospital bed with a third of his skull removed to allow his brain to expand.
Ryan has been in a vegetative state, or “open eyes coma,” ever since the attack, a victim of extreme traumatic brain injury. Medical experts said Ryan had only a 10 to 20 percent chance of ever regaining consciousness at the time of the incident; with each passing year, those odds slide. The average life expectancy for someone in a vegetative state is just eight to 10 years.
Ryan is still here, however, and the FundRazr campaign initiated by compassionate and horrified witnesses to his tragedy seeks to remind the world of that.
While Ryan’s prognosis for any meaningful recovery is essentially non-existent, his father Ken has dedicated his life to his care, a truly monumental undertaking that includes hygiene, tube-feeding, physical therapy, vibration therapy, tactile and sensation therapy, electrical stimulation therapy, hyperbaric oxygen treatment, oral care, bowel and urine protocols, and the administration of dozens of medications and supplements.
The cost of Ryan’s care, comfort and treatment clocks in at roughly $2 million a year. The family has private health insurance that covers some of this expense, but because brain injury treatment and recovery remain relative mysteries of medicine and are still considered “experimental,” a significant amount of the financial burden is outside of this accommodation.
Though Ryan has showed no clear signs of consciousness since the assault, his family talks to him constantly in the conviction that he hears them. A contribution to the selfless, painful, endless efforts that go into his care delivers a message that the rest of us are listening, too.