On March 30th, 2016 Jim Ryan was vacationing in Hawaii with his wife Isabelle and was struck by a wave in waist deep water. He and Isabelle were swimming and dove under an incoming wave. Jim was struck by the cresting wave while submerged and driven into the sea floor. He was paralyzed instantly. Isabelle quickly found him, unconscious, and began yelling for help. Complete strangers jumped into action to help extract Jim from the water, perform CPR, and transport him over rocky terrain to an ambulance. It is nothing short of a miracle that he is alive today, and had it not been for the kindness and compassion of strangers on that beach, these stories may have ended very differently.
The details of this story are obviously many, and this paragraph doesn't tell you the many terrifying moments of getting Jim to hospital. This is a story only one person can recount accurately, and that is Isabelle herself. You can find that story here.
Within 24 hours his accident, Jim was alive and conscious in hospital in Maui. He was intubated, paralyzed, and in significant pain. Despite all this, he was determined to speak. Being intubated, speech was impossible and so we devised a spelling system that allowed Jim to spell out words to us by laying out the letters on a grid and having Jim blink as we counted upwards to specify a row and column. This was a rudementary system that took a long time to execute and involved much guessing to try and save Jim the effort of finishing a word (think of hangman but a lot more painful).
In the following days and weeks until Jim could speak again, we filled a notebook with block letters painfully spelled out with our spelling system. Jim even wrote an entire two page letter 3 days after the accident recounting the accident and his memory of it. This notebook has become a valued treasure to us, and contains some of the best, and most painful moments from the days following the accident.
The story of Jim's first word following the accident is a good one, and is once again, best told by Isabelle. You can find that story here.
Flying to Maui to help:
As mentioned, Jim and Isabelle were vacationing in Maui at the time of the accident. They were travelling alone as all the children were attending university or in training with the military. I (Dan) received the call with the terrible news of the accident and was responsible for calling the remaining family members and friends and inform them of the news. The next day I was removed from active flying until the situation stabilized. It was at that point I offered to fly to Hawaii to help Isabelle any way I could.
The story of leaving flying training and going to Hawaii to help bring Jim home can be found here.