‘The specialists told my parents, ‘Switch his life support machine off.’ What my dad did saved my life.’: Assault victim shares ‘miracle’ recovery from traumatic brain injury

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“Back in 2011, as an 18-year-old boy, I was out with a small group of friends at a local nightclub. The music was pumping, the drinks were flowing, and we were dancing the night away. We were literally having the best time of our lives. But only until it was time to go home. As we made our way out to the carpark and got into a taxi, we noticed some older men had followed us out, and they ended up removing us from the taxi. After a short disagreement, we decided it would be wise to find a separate cab to make it back to the safety of our parent’s homes.

We turned left out of the carpark, and left again onto a dark, unlit road. As we made our way down this road, we noticed the bright white headlights of the same vehicle we had just been extracted from filling the interior of ours. We went from the excitement to make it back to the comfort of our own beds to fear, worry, and confusion. Then suddenly, there was a loud, angry voice coming through our driver’s walkie-talkie demanding we pull over. As our vehicle began to slow, we questioned our driver, but there was no answer. He pulled up onto the curb and stopped. Then there was an eerie sound of silence. ‘What happens next?’ was the thought going through our minds after the headlights of the vehicle, which had pulled up behind us, were switched off.

There was a loud thump on the passenger front window, which my friend opened to see what the issue was. But as he did, he began to get punched. I panicked and opened my door to try and stop this madness. But as I did, my door was ripped open, and I was greeted with the same fist. I hadn’t even had a chance to take my seatbelt off. I was sat there, glued to the back of my seat like a sitting duck. While being constantly punched in the left side of my temple and struggling to release the buckle due to the tension, I remember thinking, ‘Ryan, this is how you’re going to die.’

Luckily, I finally managed to release the clasp and exited the vehicle through the driver’s rear door and then ran down a side road. With no physical signs of trauma and just a throbbing head, I decided to call a friend to come and take me back home. I remember the whole journey back my heavy head was spinning, and I couldn’t keep it up. It was a kind of gyroscopic sort of feeling that was spinning round and round. My friends insisted they take me to the hospital. However, I said because I had had a few beers, and because of the beating, that things would all be okay in the morning.

But how very wrong I was. The last thing I remember was getting out of the car and walking up to the front door of my parent’s home, putting my hand on the handle, and stepping through. Now I can only talk to you from my parent’s perspective. Apparently, I went up as usual, but my worried mom realized I was a little later than usual for some unknown reason. I took my clothes off and folded them up neatly and then zonked off. My baby brother was woken by my unusually loud snoring, and then again a little while later by my projectile vomiting. After realizing this vomit was jet black, my mom knew there was something seriously wrong, but my dad being my dad insisted I had most probably had too many black sambuca shots.

young man taking on a bed with blue sheets
Courtesy of Ryan Nurse

Later that Sunday morning, my older brother was asked by a friend if I was okay as he heard me and my friends had been beaten up. My brother wasn’t aware of any of this and told my parents straight away. And after my parents failed to wake me up, the paramedics were promptly called. They said as soon as the emergency services arrived it was like all hell broke loose. There were sirens, radio messages, and lots of rushing around. Before you know it, I was on the stretcher, down the stairs, and in the back of an ambulance.

Dad stayed back to look after the ship while mom followed in a separate ambulance. When we arrived, she saw me being rushed straight in, and sat there bewildered and alone. The time rapidly ticked away. Every second felt like a minute, and every minute felt like a day. She asked the paramedics for answers, but there was nothing. Suddenly, she heard a voice from down the corridor—my voice. After a big sigh of relief, she swiftly followed it. As she entered the room, she was chucked straight back down to reality after realizing it wasn’t mine. Scared and worried, she kept asking the doctors for answers, and there weren’t any.

Only until they came out and said, ‘It looks like Ryan has had a severe head injury.’ They were preparing to transfer me to a specialist hospital via air ambulance. My mom was so upset and puzzled as there were no physical signs of trauma at all. Not one single mark on my head. As my dad arrived, doctors told my parents they were just leaving with me in the back of an ambulance to take me for an emergency brain operation, so they desperately followed in pursuit.

Upon arrival, I was rushed straight in for the operation, where I suffered from a fractured skull and a blood clot due to a bleed on the brain. After, my parents arrived at the second hospital around mid-day, but I was nowhere to be seen. They spend forever trying to locate where I was, and they finally got to see me laying there in a coma, in the intensive care unit at around 6 p.m. As I lay there motionless, they sat there speechless. The specialist who did the operation came in and told them, ‘Due to the severity of Ryan’s injuries, it would be highly unlikely that he would survive the night.’ They were devastated.

Young man victim of assault unconscious at the hospital after suffering a traumatic brain injury
Courtesy of Ryan Nurse

They sat there for as long as they could, and then had to make their way back home to share the dreaded news with all my loved ones. Three days in however, I was still being kept alive by the life support machine, and on the third day, my parents were invited to the hospital by the doctors. As they entered the intensive care unit, they were taken to a separate room. As they sat down the specialist said, ‘Due to the severity of Ryan’s injuries, and because there is zero brain activity, we would highly suggest you switch his life support machine off…’ Just imagine what must have been going through their heads after hearing this awful news.

My dad did something which ultimately saved my life. He stood up and he said, ‘NO F–KING WAY! I know Ryan more than any of you do, and he takes his own time to do anything. He does everything in his own time. You need to give him time.’ After they decided not to pull the plug, there wasn’t much response from me over the next few days. But it was now time for doctors to reduce the sedation to try and bring me out of the coma. My loved ones gathered that morning, and once the sedation was reduced, I had to be put straight back into the coma as I wasn’t breathing on my own accord.

Yet again, doctors suggest the machine be turned off, and my parents were told if I was to ever wake up, I would NEVER walk or talk again and would be in a vegetative state for the rest of my life. But my parents had hope. We all need hope to cope. Have only positive expectations. They knew deep down I would pull through. The next day after the sedation was reduced—luckily for me—I was functioning by myself. It wasn’t like I was sitting up and taking. I was just breathing for myself. Still, nobody knew the true extent of my injuries. Over the next week, there were minimal movements, and thankfully at the end of that week, things were on the up.

Just before waking up, I was gifted an out-of-body experience, where I honestly believe I viewed myself through the eyes of my creator. 2 weeks in, I was now awake but couldn’t speak yet due to the tracheostomy in my throat. Still, my loved ones didn’t know if I could understand them or remember what had happened. In the third week, I started to rapidly progress, and after learning how to walk and talk again, I walked out of the hospital in just under 4 weeks. I went back one year after to see the doctor who had done the operation, and as I walked into his office, he glared at me and said, ‘YOU ARE A WALKING MIRACLE. This never happens!’

young man sitting on a couch with a pad on his chest and a scar on his head form a brain injury
Courtesy of Ryan Nurse

I thanked him for fixing me and showed my gratitude and appreciation to him, the NHS, and for life. I am so thankful I was given a second chance. Someone or something was definitely looking over me throughout this painful period. Some sort of supernatural source. My parents told me the stories of the families they met while visiting me. Families of the loved ones who were also in the same position as me. Sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters. They were also advised to turn their loved one’s life support machines off, and they did, which ultimately resulted in the death of their beloved.

young man with a scar on his head smiling with a "Happy Birthday" sign in the background
Courtesy of Ryan Nurse

Because it’s what we do, right? We listen to the advice of the professionals. If you want your car fixed, you seek the advice of your mechanic. If you want your radiator fixed, you speak with your local plumber. If you want YOU fixed, you speak to your trusted doctor. Please, realize doctors can only advise to the best of their knowledge and experience, and every one of us is different. We are all unique cases. No doctor can ever put a definite deadline on your dreaded day of demise. Of course, I’m grateful because doctors saved my life. But if it wasn’t for my dad, the doctors would have been ready to take my life.

young man with a long scar on the left side of his face
Courtesy of Ryan Nurse

While in a coma, I wasn’t conscious to decide whether to turn my life support machine off or not, and it was totally in somebody else’s control. I have noticed many people who are alive and well have unconsciously pulled the plug on their own. Because death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside of us while we live. Benjamin Franklin once said, ‘Most people die at 25 and aren’t buried until they are 75.’ Know the graveyard is one of the wealthiest places on this earth. Just imagine all those undiscovered and unused talents, skills, and abilities who ceased to exist.

a young man and a woman giving a speech at the Global Woman Club
Courtesy of Ryan Nurse

All those ‘would haves, could haves, and should haves’ who the world never had exposure to. So many people are just existing believing tomorrow is guaranteed. But death is definite, and I personally don’t want to perish filled with potential. But when is it that people really start to live their lives? I believe it is when they face death, a lost loved one, or an incurable illness. Then suddenly, they want to go out there and do all the things they have always wanted to do.

Young man skydiving with a professional assistant smiling and doing hand gestures
Courtesy of Ryan Nurse

Please believe me when I say you don’t have to wait for someone you know to become seriously ill or die in order to take action today, and go after what you really want in life. Your dream life is out there, so go out there and get it! Don’t ever let someone else decide, design, determine, or dictate your destiny. Don’t fear failure—fear regret. Make the pain of regret worse than any other pain you could ever imagine. Because the pain of fear and failure is temporary. The pain of regret will last a lifetime. Don’t take your greatness to the grave.”

Young man giving an inspirational speech to a crowd
Courtesy of Ryan Nurse
Young man wearing a semi-formal suit and standing next to stairs with trees in the background
Courtesy of Ryan Nurse

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Ryan Nurse from Buckinghamshire, UK. You can follow his journey on Instagram and his website. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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