In a sad twist of fate, on October 24, 2000, the designated driver taking three friends home suffered a traumatic brain injury from a terrible wreck in Sanford, Maine. That designated driver’s name is Ryan Towne. He was only 25 years old at the time.
Towne was raised in the same town his parents and grandparents grew up in, Kennebunk, Maine. Shelly Wigglesworth, writer for Sea Coast Online, attended Sunday School with Ryan, and she describes his life as typical, filled with friends and a loving family. He was an avid hockey player, having played all four years of high school, as well as expressing talent at art. After he graduated high school, Towne took a job installing cell phone towers all across New England.
Now, that same job is one of the many things Ryan says he misses about his “old life”.
On that night in October, Towne received a brain injury that ultimately shut his nervous system down, leaving him in a coma for months with no consciousness. Finally, a year later, he was able to return home with his parents, with whom he has lived with ever since.
Wigglesworth reconnected with Towne after his injury when she notived he had been working with theraputic horses. She spoke with Ryan, as well as his father, and Ryan shared a glimpse at what life is like following a traumatic and severe brain injury.
While not fully confined to a wheel chair, Ryan uses one for most of his mobility and daily physical therapy training. He also has a personal support specialist, Tim Guillemette, to assist Towne. Unfortunately, Ryan is not currently doing the horse therapy because the horse he was working with died, and the center does not have a horse the proper size for Towne.
Aside from the impact on Ryan’s physical mobility, the injury also affected his speech. He communicates via a Light Writer, which he jokingly refers to as a “light rider”. The device allows Ryan to type in words, which the machine then speaks. He can also use sign language, and he is working daily on re-gaining his speech abilities, but it is a long and painful process.
Ryan still shows poise after his accident, and responded to Wigglesworth’s questions thoughtfully. He misses hockey terribly, and talked about how one of his two nephers, Jacob, was going to be great at the sport.
His sense of humor is also still intact. He joked about his adventures when he was younger, and enjoyed sharing his childishly nefarious times with friends.
It is now 12 years since the injury, and Ryan has been making great progress. He has taken up cooking, and is beginning to create art again. “It gives me back some of my old life, combined with my new self,” he said.
Ryan still has faith, and believes everything happens for a reason. He says he appreciates the little things more now. He shows great strength and has hope for his future. He will likely never be one-hundred percent healed from the accident, but he shows no sign of slowing down on his progress.