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A different viewpoint on life; Accident, miraculous recovery changes young Fort Scottian's outlook

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Ryan Gander, 25, center, poses for a photo with his father, Scott Gander and his mother, Kelly Gander. The Ganders' Christmas this year was a little more special just knowing their son was there.(Laurie Sisk/Tribune)
Ryan Gander lay in a field for about six and a half hours after rolling his truck and being ejected from it around midnight on Aug. 18. He was discovered at the break of daylight by postal delivery driver and family friend Tiffany Clarkson.

Ryan, 25, was returning from his sister's house to his parents' house, a five-mile drive along 215th Street that should have been a routine trip home. About a mile from his destination, his trip and his life took a turn that was as far from routine as one can imagine.

Ryan's father, Scott Gander said Clarkson called the family upon Ryan's urging and they sped to their son's side. Scott said the only visible injuries were to his son's left arm, which was visibly twisted. The family would later learn that Ryan's injuries were much more extensive and life threatening. Ryan was immediately air-ambulanced to Freeman Hospital in Joplin, Mo., while his parents drove the long, emotional drive to Joplin.

"We got there (to the field) about 10 minutes before the helicopter," Scott said. "He was still coherent, but very cold and very lethargic. It was one of the first really cool nights we had. It got down to about 50 degrees that night and hypothermia had set in. His body temperature dropped to 87-point-something."

Scott said as they started to try and warm his son, arteries started bleeding from an "open-book" pelvis break (In which the pelvis breaks in two from the front.

Ryan's crystal blue eyes roam about the room on Wednesday as his father recalls the horrific night of the accident, which not only changed the way the now vibrant 25-year-old man now views life, but served to strengthen the faith of the entire family. If Ryan seems a little disengaged during the retelling of the particulars of the accident, it's probably because he has no memory of it. In fact, he lost memory from the day of the accident until Sept. 20, maybe due in part to the brain bleed he suffered and maybe in part to medication he was taking for pain. Whatever the case, there is likely to be quite a bit of documentation about young Gander, who is soon to be the topic of several medical articles, including some at University Hospital in Columbia, Mo.

Gander defied several odds in his recovery, but to understand the road to his rehabilitation, one must first realize the extent of his injuries.

Scott said his son broke just about every bone in his body, except for his right arm and his legs. Ryan's pelvis was shattered in three places, he broke his back, collarbone, sternum, tailbone, nose and ribs on both sides of his body and punctured a lung. He received 13 or 14 units of blood. Later, doctors gave the young man about a 1 percent chance of survival. Physicians told Scott that the lowest PH balance for a surviving patient at the hospital was 6.9. His son's had plummeted to 6.56.

Doctors worked to stabilize Ryan so they could transport him to University Hospital in Columbia, Mo., where trauma specialists could coordinate his care. He was given a paralytic as sedation.

His father said that because of the injury to his lungs, it was 17 days before Ryan was stable enough for doctors in Columbia to do anything about his broken bones.

He said doctors at the hospital said they had lots of ideas on how to treat Ryan, but weren't sure what would work. Scott said one of the doctors said that Ryan had become something of a "science project."

Ryan was placed on a kinetic bed that rotated every six hours to relieve pressure on his lungs. He was on a special ventilator, breathing treatments and later a tracheotomy tube.

His mother Kelly said doctors told her they couldn't figure out why Ryan was still here and would stop by his room in amazement. She said one doctor told her that, "'This is a reminder of why I'm not in control.'" She said that same doctor nicknamed him "Jesus."

On Sept. 17, nearly a month after the accident, Ryan was transferred to Mercy Hospital to seek care from Mercy rehabilitation director Eric Baldonado.

"Eric did a really good job of communicating with them (Ryan's doctors)," Scott said. "That was the best of both worlds, we had him in Fort Scott and not in a nursing home." Scott said Baldonado bent over backwards to assure his doctors that Mercy could take proper care of Ryan.

Ryan was transported on Sept. 20 to Mercy.

On Oct. 12, the first day doctors designated for weight-bearing activity, Ryan continued to amaze medical professionals.

Ryan said doctors told him one of two things would probably happen when he tried to stand -- he would either pass out or vomit.

"He stood up on two crutches ... He then took one step, two steps then just kept going," Scott said.

His father said he then walked 15 to 20 feet to a door before giving up his left crutch. By the time he was done, Ryan, who had not been on his feet since the accident, walked about 400 feet.

Ryan said he initially just looked at his feet and said to himself, "Okay, How does this work?"

From there, Ryan walked until the doctors told him to stop.

"That brought tears to a lot of people's eyes," Scott said. "One doctor even said, 'This is why I do what I do.'"

Ryan had earlier told his father, when I go, "I'm walking out of here,"

On Oct. 16 Ryan Gander did exactly that.

His parents described the entire ordeal as climbing a large mountain every day.

Kelly said each day started with climbing that mountain, and just as the family thought they were getting good news, something would send them reeling back to the base, only to start the long, emotional journey again in hopes of better news at the top each time.

Ryan's left elbow still has extremely limited range of motion, but overall, Ryan is a bit of a medical anomaly -- in the best possible way.

He was invited and visited his care team at University Hospital in Columbia for their employee Christmas party.

Ryan also has taken on a fiancee as he begins the next chapter in his life.

He proposed to Courtney Halsey on Dec. 14 under the Plaza Lights in Kansas City, Mo., with both families present.

"I go from watching him gasp for every breath to watching him down, kneeling and asking for someone to marry him," Kelly said with tear-filled eyes.

The Ganders have three words of advice to families undergoing the uncertainty during trauma recovery. "Keep the faith."

"We are very blessed and very fortunate," Scott said. "It's like one of the doctors said. There's only one person in charge. We were just very fortunate that Tiffany found him when she did. So many things fell into place that had to be just right."

"I am lucky to still be here," Ryan said. "Something like this really turns your life around."

He said those things that seemed hard before, seem pretty easy to deal with now. He said it makes one look at older people struggling with health problems a little differently, too.

"It makes you wonder, how can I help them?" Ryan said. "There have been a lot of people that have stepped up and helped me. It makes you look at life a lot differently. Life can be taken from you in a matter of minutes."

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What a wonderful, amazing family. May God continue to bless you.

-- Posted by respectful on Thu, Dec 27, 2012, at 10:28 AM

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