Ryan’s story

“Only being able to hold my newborn son for ten short minutes before he was rushed to PMH for life saving surgery broke my heart.”

When first time mum, Yvonne, was told her son had spina bifida she felt every emotion possible. But fear was the strongest.

“Not knowing what the future would hold for Ryan was so hard.”

Yvonne - first hold of Ryan

Yvonne holding Ryan for the first time in PMH.

“I would lie awake at night worrying about everything. Would he survive the pregnancy? If he did, would he be able to walk? Would he be teased by other children? Would I cope?”

Spina bifida is a birth defect where the bones of the spine – the vertebra – don’t form properly around the spinal cord.

“Ryan was born via a caesarean and immediately rushed to PMH. I was at King Edward Memorial Hospital recovering from his birth and wasn’t able to go with him to PMH. He was three days old before I was able to see him again.”

As is typical of the condition, Ryan was born with the nerves on his tiny back uncovered. This is why he needed an urgent operation right after birth. Doctors had to put his exposed spinal cord and tissue back inside his spinal canal.

“It was terrifying just waiting for news on how the operation went,” explains Yvonne.

Waiting to hear if your newborn child is to survive through the night is something no parent should have to go through. Thank goodness for the skills of the team at PMH. They saved Ryan’s life.

Surviving that first surgery back in June 2005 was just the beginning of Ryan’s battle. His spina bifida meant that Yvonne and her husband Mark have had to make many tough decisions.

Over the past 12 years, Ryan has endured 23 operations. And there are many more to come.

“Each time we sign the consent form for another surgery, we hope and pray that he will come through.”

Ryan at PMH before his latest operation to adjust his spine.

Ryan at PMH before his latest operation to adjust his spine.

“As parents we hope we have made the right decision. And we pray that the surgery will improve Ryan’s quality of life.”

Ryan’s most recent surgery, in October last year, involved doctors inserting two metal rods into his spine. The aim was to straighten the severe curve that was causing his internal organs to be squashed.

“I had been researching Ryan’s surgery online. Much of what I saw was horrific. It’s a fine line between being informed and terrified,” explains Yvonne.

The surgery took five and a half hours.

“Thankfully Ryan made it through the surgery. His doctors used the latest technology to insert and guide the rods using ultrasound through two small cuts at the top and bottom of his spine.”

Ryan - standing straight for first time 1

Ryan, standing straight for the first time with mum, Yvonne.

The surgery has straightened out Ryan’s spine and taken the pressure off his internal organs. But he now faces many months of rehabilitation and recovery.

For the past 12 years, the severe curvature of his spine has caused Ryan’s muscles and tendons to develop in a certain way. These need to be retrained as he builds new muscle strength and memory.

“Ryan is in a wheelchair at the moment. He is working hard to regain his strength so that he will only need it for longer distances,” says Yvonne.

To achieve his goal of walking again, Ryan will be supported by staff in many different departments at PMH. He will need to visit the Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation teams to name a few.

The future for Ryan is still unknown. But we know that he is a fighter.

“Ryan has such a positive attitude,” continues Yvonne.

“He has spent so much time at PMH that he calls it ‘my hospital’. He loves the staff and meeting other kids who are patients like him. He particularly loves Stitches – the Foundation’s mascot – because he puts smiles on people’s faces.

“This is Ryan’s aim in life. To make people happy.”

You can help put a smile on Ryan’s face by making a donation today.

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