Linda's Story Time was packed on Saturday morning as patrons stood in line to meet Ryan Boyle and he signed copies of his book "When the Lights Go Out." The Monroe native has come a long way since surviving a near death experience at age 9. Boyle, 19, who now lives in Georgia, shared the ongoing story of his rehab from traumatic brain injury.
Most in attendance included childhood friends and adults who played roles in Ryan's life. There was Mary McLaughlin, his home care nurse; Donna Colaiacome, his bus driver when Boyle attended Monroe Elementary School; and Father Joseph Karcinski of St. Jude Church.
"It's beautiful," McLaughlin said of Boyle writing his own book. "I can't wait to read it."
Colaiacome said, "I think it's great. I think he looks good. I hope he makes out with everything. Of course I had to come out and support him. He was a real good kid on the bus. I'm just so glad that he's happy. He went through a lot."
Ryan Boyle was nine-years-old when he played on a Big Wheel in the driveway of a friend's house, doing wheelies and spinning out in the wet leaves during a party on Columbus Day in 2003. Suddenly he lost control of the Big Wheel, slid down the driveway and into a passing pickup truck, which dragged him about 55 feet. Boyle was in a coma for two months.
Linda Devlin, owner of Linda's Story Time, was among those in the community who helped the Boyles. On Valentines Day in 2004, she organized the "Love That Ryan Day" fundraiser.
"We signed a big card on Valentine's Day," Devlin recalled.
Colleen McMellon of Monroe, a friend of Devlin's, attended Saturday's book signing. "She's not taking any money for Ryan's books," McMellon said of Devlin. "All the proceeds go to him. She's always supported him since this happened."
'Ryan Can Do Everything'
Before his accident, Boyle was the number one ranked mountain bike rider in New England in his age group growing up and was a consistent winner in BMX bike racing. His mother, Nancy, said Ryan's room was full of bicycling and soccer trophies.
When Ryan's big brother, Matthew, ran track at Notre Dame High School, Nancy said Ryan always kept up while running with the older kids.
"My older son always said, 'Ryan can do everything,'" Nancy said, adding things had always seemed to come easy to him before the accident.
After the accident, Ryan had to re-learn how to do everything, from breathing and swallowing to walking. He could only move one finger.
The athleticism is returning. Ryan is going to Canada in April to race.
"I'm training for Paralympic cycling," Ryan said.
Gary Fischer, who owns a cycling line, met Ryan at an event at Trek Bicycle in Fairfield. After hearing Ryan's story, Fischer decided to train him for competition, Nancy said.
Nancy said Ryan first learned how to ride a bike when he was two, adding he never needed training wheels.
"He's just finding a different way to achieve things," Nancy said. "He still has a goal to ride in the Olympics for bicycling."
An Unbelievable Fighter'
Matthew Boyle watched his son sign books on Saturday.
"It's absolutely amazing," Matthew said. "He just amazes us every day. The sky's the limit for him. He has such a great attitude, sense of humor and outlook on life — and nothing can hold him back. And for him to share it with others, I'm very proud of him."
Matthew said the accident was "brutal", but that he and his wife asked themselves how they could be down when Ryan had such a positive attitude. "It made a big difference in our lives," Matthew said.
"At Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital I learned, no matter how bad it is, it can always be worse," he added.
The Boyles later chose Blythedale Children's Hospital for Ryan because it has a public school at the hospital.
"He couldn't add one plus one," Matthew said of his son. "He didn't know the alphabet. And luckily it all came back to him. He was at a fourth grade level within a month."
Ryan later enjoyed attending St. Joseph High School before his family moved to Georgia midway through his junior year. He went on to graduate at Blessed Trinity High School and is now a freshman at Berry College in Georgia.
Ryan had visited St. Joe's last Friday, giving a half hour talk.
"You could hear a pin drop," Matthew said of the attention Ryan received from the audience. "The principal and president of the school gave him an honorary diploma, a tassel and a school sticker for his car. There was a hole when they graduated and he wasn't there."
Nancy said Ryan wrote the original manuscript of his book using a portable computer. "This is his book," she said.
Nancy said one couple they know read "When the Lights Go Out" and said, "They laughed and they cried and said it was him all the way through."
Nancy is not surprised at her son's achievements in the face of overwhelming odds.
"He was always a fighter since the day he was born," she said. "I almost lost him in the third month of my pregnancy. I knew then, when I didn't lose him, that he was an unbelievable fighter."