Two hurting Havre kids are getting better
By Pete Soyer
Ryan Chagnon is coming home.
After about four months at Benefis West Hospital in Great Falls, he will arrive in Havre Thursday between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., his mother, Ginger Chagnon, said. Yellow ribbons will line the route to his home.
Ryan, who was severely injured in a car accident April 13, was back in Havre temporarily on Sunday to sell his beef during the 4-H Market Sale at the Great Northern Fair.
With help from a walker, Ryan entered the arena of the Bigger Better Barn to draw the name of the winner of a pig raffle. The proceeds went to the Ryan Chagnon Medical Fund.
A portion of the 4-H Market Sale also was donated to Ryan's fund.
He also presented a framed picture to Matt Springer, who was essential in alerting people to Ryan's accident. The picture was a black and white drawing of two horses standing on a hill and two boys sitting near them. The title of the picture is "Taking a Break."
Ginger said she was looking for something that showed friendship or someone helping. The picture of the two boys reminded her of "two young men like Ryan and Matt. It just clicked. That was the one."
Ryan was injured April 13 when he drove a 1997 Chevrolet S-10 Blazer from North 31st Street onto Highway 232 north of Havre and was struck by a 1997 Chrysler Intrepid.
According to a Montana Highway Patrol report, Ryan turned into the path of the Intrepid driven by Raymond Helmrick of Medicine Hat, who was unable to stop before colliding with the right front fender of the Blazer. Ryan, who was with his 19-year-old sister, Jessica, was ejected from the Blazer. The Blazer came to rest on its roof in a ditch on the side of the highway, pinning Ryan facedown in the soft ground.
Springer, who had been driving behind Ryan, called on his two-way radio for help. His call was picked up by area farmers and volunteer firefighters, who arrived soon after.
Ryan was pinned under the vehicle for about eight to 10 minutes without oxygen before the vehicle was lifted far enough so a firefighter could reach under and pull him out.
Ryan suffered traumatic brain injuries due to lack of oxygen and was in a coma for about four days.
Ginger said Ryan "pretty much has most of his memory."
"He knows he's 17. He knows he has a driver's license. Some stuff hasn't fallen back into place yet. He remembers taking trig and calc from Mrs. Wagner at the high school."
Ginger said Ryan doesn't remember anything about the accident. Ryan thinks she still drives the Blazer that was in the wreck, she said. He has also been asking her what happened to him, she said.
Ginger said Ryan used to work at Gary and Leo's IGA and he worked at Taco Time before that, "but he thinks he still works at Taco Time."
Ryan will have to attend physical, occupational and speech therapy three to five times a week for the next two months, she said.
Ginger said Ryan harasses the nurses in the hospital and even put one in a leg lock. The leg-locked nurse, ironically, is the mother of a Great Falls Bison wrestler. "Out of all the nurses to pick, he picked the Bison's mom," she said.
Ryan has wheeled himself into the elevator at Benefis West Hospital and gone down to the first floor, Ginger said. Someone on that floor usually sees him heading toward the main doors and asks him what he's doing. He tells them he's going home.
Ryan is walking with the aid of a walker and doctors are trying to implement a cane. Ginger said Ryan recently snuck into the hall of the hospital and was walking along the wall using the railing for support. "He got in trouble for that one," she said.
Ryan knows what he wants to say, but people have to really listen to understand what he is saying. When Ginger was with Ryan recently he kept trying to tell her something, but she couldn't understand him. She said she had to tell him to slow down. Ryan stopped and slowly said "I can't wait to get to Havre."
Ryan got to see a lot of friends when he was home for the fair. His friends took him around the fair in his wheelchair.
Ryan, who turns 18 in October, has been a 4-Her since he was 9.
"The 4-H kids that he's known forever received him very well," Ginger said. Laine Lybeck, the 4-H queen, put her crown on Ryan's baseball cap. His friends bought him pop and talked to him. A lot of Ryan's wrestling teammates from Havre High School also showed up to see him.
Ryan seemed comfortable with all his friends. "He was smiling a lot. He's the same Ryan in his heart," Ginger said.
Ginger hopes Ryan, who will be a senior at Havre High next year, will start school on a limited basis in the fall. A doctor's note predicted two to three hours of school a day in a resource room. Ryan only needs two credits to graduate and he wants to graduate with his class of 2002, she said.
Kathie Newell, Northern Montana Hospital spokeswoman, is organizing the route of yellow ribbons for Ryan's return Thursday.
She said the route the Chagnons will take starts at the intersection of Highway 2 and Old Post Road. They will turn left onto Fifth Avenue from 11th Street and drive down to First Street and make a right, then left at Seventh Avenue over the viaduct and on to Ryan's home.
Newell said the ribbons will be put on trees, lamp poles and anything else that needs a ribbon.
Citizens are invited to wear a yellow ribbon on Thursday to support Ryan.
The ribbons for the Chagnons' route home were donated and made by Jackey Wassmann at Petal Pusher. Wassmann had 50 ribbons made Monday afternoon.
Newell said the ribbons are yellow to represent a "concerted effort to bring home a person people have been missing." A yellow ribbon was left at the entrance of the road the Chagnon family lives on after the accident, she added
Ryan still has a long way to go, his mother said, but "he's got a drive and determination to pull this off." He was never pinned during the 2000-2001 wrestling season and "it was in his mind that he wasn't going to get pinned this time either," she said.