Beautiful Survivors: Ryan Nakamura
It's been nearly nine years since the accident happened, and now Ryan Nakamura is sharing how he turned tragedy into triumph.
A remarkable recovery by a young man hit in the head by a line drive.
It's been nearly nine years since the accident happened, and now Ryan Nakamura is sharing how he turned near tragedy into triumph.
"It was a split second and my life changed forever," Nakamura said.
In February 2009, Nakamura, a pitcher for the Maryknoll baseball team was out at batting practice when he was hit in the head by a ball off the bat of one of his teammates.
"That ball came screaming back at me and hit me in the right eye area," he said. "My head rang real loud and I was disoriented."
Able to walk off the field at that time, 13-year-old Nakamura told his coaches he'd be okay and just needed to sit out for a while.
"Fortunately, my dad was attending practice that day.. thought a little otherwise and threw me in the back of his truck," Nakamura said.
His father rushed Nakamura to the emergency center at Kapi'olani Medical Center for Women and Children.
"Him keeping him awake in the truck cause he did tell dad that he was tired.. you know.. 'Don't go to sleep. Don't go to sleep'," his mother, Charlene Nakamura told Island News.
Doctors at Kapi'olani Medical Center say Nakamura had suffered an acute inter-cranial hemorrhage.
"Basically almost immediately after Ryan was presented the emergency room physician recognized that he was an extremist. He was at risk for dying," Dr. Jaime Harrington said. "That person is bleeding in their head and that blood is accumulating so fast that's it's putting pressure on their optic nerve."
Additionally, the teen had suffered a skull fracture, and optic nerve damage, as well. He was immediately taken into the operating room, where medical experts worked to stop the internal head bleed and save his life.
"In Ryan's case his post-operative management was not straight forward.. he had a stroke as well," Dr. Harrington added.
42 staples were used to close the surgical would on young Nakamura's head, as he lay unconscious in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.
"You know, here's my baby.. My oldest kid. I said its one of those life moments that you remember forever," his mother said.
During his road to recovery, Nakamura had spent several weeks regaining consciousness. Once he was able to communicate--despite all that had happened-- he made it known that he still had the love of the game in his heart and on his mind.
"For Ryan it was wanting to get back to playing as soon as possible," Dr. Harrington recalled. "You've got to respect and admire that kind of drive."
But for Nakamura, it was much more that just getting to play baseball again.
"It was something to get over mentally to challenge myself to say your there your fully recovered.. everything is going to be okay," Nakamura said.
Just one year after the accident, through strength and perseverance, Nakamura threw on his uniform, grabbed a glove and stepped out back on the field.
"Of course we were very nervous.. and every time a ball came to him it-- just stop the ball you know," his mother said. "But that's the type of person Ryan is.. he just persevered through everything and just fought back."
Nakamura went on to play baseball at Whittier Community College in California. Today, he recent college grad says he is thankful for a second chance at life, and has a constant reminder of just how lucky he is.
"I'm greeted every day with a scar on my head, but I really look at that as a symbol of perseverance," Nakamura told Island News.
Currently, Nakamura is pursuing a career in medicine.
"The field of medicine as given me so much, so what better way that to do my life's work and reciprocate that," he added.
Ryan told Island News he met Dr. Morita, the neurosurgeon who saved his life for the very first time, just a couple of weeks ago. He says he can't thank both Dr. Morita and Dr. Harrington, as well as the staff at Kapi'olani Medical Center for all they've done.