Stephanie Chuang reports on the recovery of a teenager who was seriously injured in a sand tunnel accident 18 months ago. Ryan Buchanan's dad says his son is a fighter.
It took 15 minutes to dig him out of the heavy sand that began to fill his lungs.
In that time, no oxygen was going to the brain of 17-year-old Ryan Buchanan of Orinda.
Somehow, he survived.
Fast-forward 18 months since that tragic accident in Santa Cruz: the now-18-year-old is still defying the odds.
His father, Bret Buchanan, said those who fell into the same persistent vegetative state his son has been living in, usually don’t make it to a full year.
Not only has Ryan beat the odds, Bret said his son has fought potentially life-ending sicknesses time and time again.
The most recent return to the hospital was just two weeks ago, when doctors feared he had sepsis.
The time before that was pneumonia. “Any of those things that could potentially end his life, he’s come back, and has actually come back stronger,” Bret Buchanan said.
Ryan has shown such strength that it’s left his family with full faith that he will one day walk again.
He cannot see, speak or move by himself, but Bret explained there’s been hopeful progress with Ryan’s movement.
“Now he actually has some movement, which someone in persistent vegetative state is not supposed to have,” said Bret Buchanan.
“I touched his foot the other day - and it’s a regular occurrence now – he actually gets a little ticklish! To be able to tickle his feet now and watch him move is like… whoa!”
Bret said the support from both family and friends has been amazing.
Ryan’s grandparents visit an average of four times a week, focusing their time on not only speaking to him, but giving him physical therapy.
His friends have done the same. In fact, four of those friends are now studying to become physical therapists.
Motivated by his progress and of course, their steadfast love, Ryan’s family and friends have kicked off “Project Ryan’s Wing.”
For a month now, construction crews have been building an addition to the house that will feature Ryan’s new room, complete with handicap-capable showers and an elevator. Bret added there will be a special air condition filtration system to purify the air and tubing that crawls up through the walls for oxygen.
Most importantly, the goal is to bring Ryan closer to the family and away from the former-master bedroom where he now spends almost all of his time, sequestered along with his nurses, separated from the rest of the house by a long, narrow hallway.
The project is set to be finished in just a couple of months, barring any “unfriendly” weather. In the meantime, Bret described his time with his son as invaluable – a time he’s gotten to know Ryan more than ever before.
“I communicated with him more than I ever did before. Not just talking to him out loud, but knowing intricately what he needs.”
In the end, the family is living on faith. Bret said this experience has set-in-stone his existence and purpose.
“To watch over my kids,” he said, before an emotional pause. “Watch over my family. Live in the moment and love the people that are around you, ‘cause you never know when God’s going to take them.”
The family is holding a Christmas Concert benefit next Saturday, December 15 at 7 p.m at the Creekside Community Church in Alamo.
For more information and to buy tickets, visit www.RyanBuchanan.org.
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