Six days ago, 29 students and seven staff members took a field trip to INOVA hospital in Fairfax to visit Ryan Kwak. It was one of the most emotional things that I think any of us have done, but if anyone was nervous by the prospect of seeing a student in the ICU, no one showed it.
We had heard on Tuesday that after three weeks in the hospital, Ryan was (understandably) depressed, exhausted, and in pain. He wanted his regular life back, didn’t see the point in trying to even roll over on his side, and was frustrated because he couldn’t talk or eat. He was supposed to have been transported to Johns Hopkin, but that was delayed due to a variety of complications further compounding his depression. Initially, the doctors did not approve a visit, but Friday afternoon, something changed. I am not sure what or why, but the doctors were going to allow everyone to visit. We scrambled to make it happen and thankfully we were able to pull it off—and it was the best possible medicine for Ryan.
As I wrote the other week, Ryan needed to know that we support him and are thinking of him. Having his room decorated with Champe colors, cheerleaders performing cheers for him, lacrosse and football players standing bedside, and friends and staff talking with him was exactly—and literally—what the doctor ordered. If you saw any of the pictures on Facebook, you will see a young man genuinely smiling and happy. A young man who was brought joy in a time of terrible darkness. A young man yearning for normalcy but thankful for his reality.
And I am thankful too. As I have said before, I appreciate how much everyone wants to help, how supportive they have been, how the community has rallied together for Ryan. The most recent example of the outpouring of goodwill was the Moe’s fundraiser on Wednesday. Through the generosity of the Maresca family (the owners), they offered to donate100% of the profits to the Kwaks. As a result, the community came out in full force: the line stretched to the back of the restaurant and out the door! People stood on line for 45 minutes to be able to do their part in Ryan’s recovery. And the event was an overwhelming success: the Kwak family will be receiving a check for $6,739!
I mention it because all of this has had such a positive impact on Ryan. I don’t know if you saw it on Facebook, but three days ago he was filmed listening to music on his headphones and dancing with his hands—in rhythm to the music no less! This is from a young man who was told he would be fully paralyzed.
And so it should come as no surprise that this morning Ryan was set to be transferred to Hopkins for the next stage of his recovery. There will certainly be triumphs and obstacles while he is there, and so I post this today to remind people (again) about the power of positivity and how important it is to support Ryan: it has gotten him this far, but Ryan will be depending on us to help him through the next phase of his challenging recovery.