On Columbus Day in 2003, nine-year-old Ryan Boyle played on a Big Wheel with friends, doing wheelies and spinning out in the wet leaves when he suddenly lost control of the Big Wheel, slid down the driveway and into a passing pickup truck, which dragged him about 55 feet.
"I was in a coma immediately after the accident and at the scene they were ready to pronounce me dead," said Boyle, now 19. "They really didn't have any hopes of me making it to the hospital or anything, so everything was touch and go for a really long time."
Through surgeries and two months in a coma, Boyle said, "They never knew if I was going to come out of it or not. Eventually I did, and everybody had been amazed — and I have been disproving their prognoses ever since."
Suffering from traumatic brain injury, Boyle had to re-learn how to do almost everything, including how to breathe, swallow, talk, sit, stand and walk.
The strong Catholic faith of his family, physicians' treatments and Boyle's strong determination allowed him to make tremendous strides. He is now a freshman at Berry College in Georgia and author of the book "When the Lights Go Out."
"I want to major in communications, because I want to be an inspirational speaker," Boyle said of his studies at Berry College.
Boyle now lives in Marietta, Ga., with parents Matthew and Nancy. He also has a 25-year-old brother named Matthew. Boyle will visit family and friends in Connecticut from Thursday to Jan. 7.
During his stay, Boyle has a speaking engagement at St. Joseph High School on Friday at 9 a.m., a book signing at Linda's Story Time, 447 Monroe Turnpike in Monroe, this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and will be interviewed for a Connecticut Style segment on the Channel 8 News on Monday.
'When the Lights Go Out'
A stack of Boyle's book, "When the Lights Go Out," is prominently displayed in Linda's Story Time. The owner, Linda Devlin, knows the Boyles pretty well.
"A couple of years ago when Ryan said he was going to write a book about his life story, I said, 'You do realize your first book signing is gonna be here or there's gonna be trouble?'" Devlin joked.
The Boyles sent Devlin a copy of his book in the mail and when she called asking how to put in an order for more copies they told her the family would be back in Connecticut for the holidays.
"They asked if Ryan could come in for a book signing and I said, 'You name the day and the time and I'll make it happen,'" Devlin recalled.
Boyle said his book is meant to inspire people to never give up whenever they face hardships in their own lives.
"That's exactly what I intended it to be for," Boyle said. "I just couldn't thank everyone enough that prayed for me and stuff because it definitely made a huge difference to where I am today. My family always being there for me was a really important aspect. I think the generosity of people and faith and everything has just been invaluable for my recovery."
'A Big Reunion'
Boyle went to St. Jude School, Monroe Elementary School, Chalk Hill and Jockey Hollow while growing up in Monroe. And he attended St. Joseph High School in Trumbull until the middle of his junior year.
"We kind of depleted all of the rehabilitation resources in Connecticut, so I wanted to move down here," Boyle said of the move to Georgia. "My parents were totally on board with me, because they love the weather here and just about everything."
Boyle goes to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta for treatment.
"They specialize in traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injuries," he said. "It's really an amazing place."
Boyle said he's excited to visit St. Joe's for his speaking engagement and to see friends there and teachers, who he has already contacted.
"Basically all of my family is still in Connecticut," he said. "They're all thrilled for the book signing. I'm not so sure for the book, but to see me."
The last time Boyle has been to Monroe was two years ago and he said it will feel like "a big reunion" in a town he will always call home.
"It's where the accident happened and it was where my life was saved, so I can never forget Monroe," Boyle said. "It's definitely been a great home for me."