Twenty-one months after being hit by a car while Rollerblading, Ryan Orlando can walk with assistance.
He still can’t talk, but he uses a computer to participate in lessons at the Cantalician Center in Depew.
“He’s very alert of what’s going on around him,” his mother said. When a reporter for The Buffalo News visited the family’s home, Ryan perked up at the repeated mention of his name and turned, his eyes sparkling, toward the conversation.
Ryan has spent a lot of time out of sight since the Dec. 16, 2011, accident on Maryvale Drive.
But he will be there, on Oct. 5, for the Rally for Ryan in the Bills Healthy Zone Fieldhouse, next to Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park.
“We just really want a celebration,” said Jessica Hunter, his mother. “For us to say ‘Thank you,’ and for [people] to see him.”
Ryan’s activities will be limited, however, as he continues to recover from a traumatic brain injury and numerous broken bones suffered in the December 2011 accident near his Cheektowaga school.
He was on Rollerblades and his stepbrother, Ryan Hunter, was on a bicycle as the two 11-year-olds headed to play basketball with friends. Ryan Orlando was hit by a car while crossing the street. He suffered a traumatic brain injury and numerous broken bones.
Two weeks later – on New Year’s Day 2012, as he was slowly regaining consciousness – Ryan suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm, requiring a second emergency craniotomy on the other side of his head and additional brain surgery to repair the aneurysm before it could cause further damage.
“We were told that Ryan, in all reality, would probably not wake up from his coma this time,” his mother said. “While I respected the doctors’ professional opinions, I kept telling them they did not know my son, and they did not know what a fighter Ryan was. If you told him he couldn’t do something, he would do it just to prove you wrong.”
Hunter and her husband, Matthew, researched rehabilitation centers. They found the Children’s Institute in Pittsburgh, where Ryan was transferred in March 2012 for his first inpatient stay. Other health issues arose, but he came home in August 2012.
“Ryan was happy, his brothers were happy, even our dog was happy,” his mother said.
Life is now very different for the family of five, which also includes 5-year-old Landon.
“Everything has changed. He takes up almost all of our time,” said his mother, who gave up her longtime job at Ingram Micro to care for him. Hunter and her husband, who celebrated their fourth wedding anniversary this month, see each other only on weekends during Ryan’s stays in Pittsburgh.
“It’s hard to just go out – us,” said Matt Hunter, who is the senior director of stadium operations at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Ryan’s condition has necessitated, among other things, a bathroom remodel, the purchase of a minivan and an adaptive car seat, and construction of a ramp that leads to the front door of the house.
He and his mother have gone to the Children’s Institute twice this year.
“We would not be where we are without them,” she said.
Unfortunately, insurance coverage has annual limits of 45 inpatient days and 60 to 80 outpatient days. “We have no more therapy [in Pittsburgh] until the end of the year, when it renews,” said Jessica Hunter, who said they talked about moving there.
“We said from Day One: ‘Whatever he needs, we are going to do it.’ We have been blessed so far,” she said.
Along with children’s activities, the Rally for Ryan, an alcohol-free fundraiser, will include raffles and basket auctions. The event runs from 3 to 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 each and free for children 3 and younger.
“The money we raise is going to go toward things he will need now and in the future,” Hunter said.