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Teen beating the odds after brain injury

By Ryan Boyle, Special to CNN
updated 9:48 PM EDT, Thu April 18, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ryan Boyle was critically injured after being hit by a truck as a 9-year-old
  • A neurologist predicted he would gain enough strength in one hand to type
  • Boyle is now training for the 2016 Paralympics

Editor's note: In the Human Factor, we profile survivors who have overcome the odds. Confronting a life obstacle -- injury, illness or other hardship -- they tapped their inner strength and found resilience they didn't know they possessed. Ryan Boyle had to overcome unthinkable obstacles as a 9-year-old when he was hit by a truck while riding a friend's Big Wheel on October 13, 2003.

(CNN) -- The severity of the numerous injuries I sustained could have been fatal.

The most severe: getting the back of my skull crushed by the impact of the truck. I needed emergency brain surgery. My neurosurgeon had to remove part of my cerebellum because fragments of my skull had pierced it.

After the surgery, he said to my parents, "I operated on him as if he had a chance." But my parents never doubted I had a chance.

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After a two-month coma, I slowly came out of it, putting many doctors and the general medical profession in disbelief.

My next step: a seven-month stay in a rehabilitation hospital.

When a neurologist saw me for the first time, all I could do was move one finger on my right hand. He told my parents: "I am optimistic that Ryan will gain enough strength in his right hand to type." This statement stuck with me throughout the years.

When I took my first steps after the accident, it was so sweet and gave me a sense of accomplishment. It was possibly the biggest event that made me realize just how wrong that doctor's diagnosis of me had been.

It's been nine years since the accident and I still remember that statement every day. It helps me remember how wrong that neurologist was; how I've proved him wrong and how it motivates me to never let someone tell me what I can or cannot do.

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When people ask me about my story, I never get to fully say what I want to because there is just so much to it. I often leave out the incredible impact of family, faith and friends. Every day I was in a coma, my parents prayed for me and for it not to be my time, and to come back to them. They were so supportive throughout all of my recovery, as was the power of prayer and help from loving friends and the community.

When the accident first happened, my local church held a prayer service for me. The church normally holds 500 people. But that night, there was standing room only -- all for a 9-year-old boy.

My mom lived with me in the rehabilitation hospital, making huge sacrifices every day to be there with me. My brother and my dad would frequently make the drive up to the hospital to see me and we would spend the day together; it meant so much to me and made the rehab part a lot easier.

When I was discharged from the hospital, friends and family from all over came together to help me by making giant get-well cards from various schools or having friends make dinner for us on a weekly basis. People that I did not even know expressed their concern for my well being from all around the country.

Now I'm on my own bike team, the first paracycle team in the country.

I'm training six days a week for two hours or more, so I'm doing all I can (to get to the 2016 Paralympics) and my heart's there. Just like in my recovery and how my parents knew all along my heart was so strong, I would overcome (my accident), I have high hopes for 2016.

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