The People's Champion

Ryan doesn't work here, but let me introduce you to him and by the end you'll understand why Ryan gets his own 'day'.

I cried the whole one hour drive home from work the day I met Ryan. I can't pinpoint what it was about him in particular that left me inconsolable during my evening commute, but I was still red faced and bleary eyed by the time I made it inside for dinner that night. Each and every time I meet a new Making Strides client it takes an army inside me to hold together the enormous amount of empathy that wants to wrecklessly come pouring out. I couldn't stop this one.

He's got the kind of ginger hair people make fun of but he maintains it's strawberry blonde. He thinks his jokes are as funny as you do but he doesn't realise his humour is a hand me down from his Irish father - John. The Boyd Boys we call them. Like Ryan, John is also a fixture around here, silently watching as Ryan tries to turn the hand he's been dealt into something more favourable. Five days a week. Four hours a day.

We were expecting Ryan when he came through our doors. As misfortune would have it, Ryan has a friend who already attends Making Strides. It's hard to comprehend how a motorbike could put two smart, young and good looking guys in front of us under such cruel and extenuating circumstances. But two smart, young and good looking friends? Where is the justice in that?

He's still smiling. And it's uncomfortably large. It's the cheesiest grin that stretches from ear to ear and it's genuine, every time. It's genuine and it's infectious as hell! He brightens your day in an instant just by being present. His positivity is boosted by his jest and frankness about his current situation.

If you've paid your admission for the full Ryan Boyd Experience, you've by now noticed that his Dad John walks with the aide of a crutch. You would think it rude to enquire as to why or you might not even care to ask when surrounded by such disparaging levels of 'life unfairness'.

I asked.

Eleven years ago John also sustained a spinal cord injury. A motorbike accident on the family farm which Ryan witnessed as a 10 year old. Who is writing this script? The nurses already knew Ryan's name when he arrived as a 19 year old, this time the patient, he had spent five months there as a visitor.

Ryan was five years old when he got his first motorbike. His father has been riding all his life and the family business is in motorbike imports and exports. 'Motorbike' was never a scary word in the Boyd household, it was part of life. The Boyd family farm is South of Brisbane and Ryan attended Rivermount Christian College as a young man before finishing school with dreams of competing professionally as a motocross racer.

Ryan was only 19 when a practice ride at the Coolum Motocross Track would be his last, on the day of his father's birthday. Ryan sustained a C4 spinal cord injury that day and after eight months of rehabilitation at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane he came through our doors - The very next day after he was discharged. That's the type of spirit Ryan is, no matter the despair he didn't have a day to waste. A day to grieve. Or a day to reacquaint himself with the life he had been removed from for eight months. He showed up the very next day and he has showed up almost every single day we have been open since.

He is as effervescent today as he was the first day we met him. So often we see a shift in our clients emotional wellbeing as a result of this program. The relationships they make, the community they belong to and the functional improvements they see all greatly improve their mental state. Not Ryan. He is constant, reliable and positive beyond reason. He makes our crew question their outlook on life daily, just by being a part of his.

Ryan averages 24 hours in just five days at Making Strides every week. He listens to everyones stories and takes in the connections being made around him. If there is something you need to know about one of our crew members, Ryan will have the answer. He is their confidante and sounding board for their lives in and out of the gym. He's their friend.

His after hours FES sessions mean that he is part of all of our team meetings. He advocates for the clients, provides feedback on training methods and critiques our training abilities. Ryan never contributes anything that isn't thoughtful or insightful, he never just fills space.

He has a sneaker collection that makes us all envious as he jokes that the only reason he wears them is because he knows by not walking they will stay in pristine condition. Always finding the bright side of every situation. He loves to have a bet, whether he actually enjoys it or it's just a tool to create an opportunity to throw some banter around we will never know. And throw banter around he can - with those Irish roots he has an arsenal of witty one liners that keep our stomachs sore from laughing and our hearts full.

Im avoiding him at the moment. He keeps encouraging me to use the SCIFIT arm cycle. Im running out of excuses but he isn't running out of banter. He isn't just in here making himself better, he is in here making us all better. Better athletes and better humans. He is still chipping away at my cardiovascular fitness but he has changed my outlook. I don't let nearly as many little things bother me anymore, because in the grand scheme of things I'm doing ok.

I'm better.

#clients #motorbike

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