Ryan is married to his college sweetheart Jenn. A graduate of the University of Manitoba, he earned a four year Bachelors degree in Kinesiology. He has worked with hundreds of people as a personal trainer, strength and conditioning consultant & high school football coach. Ryan’s personal story has an element of tragedy in it that has given him a unique perspective on the importance of healthy living, community, perseverance and resilience. He suffered a broken neck on a football field in 2009, following his first collegiate season. His severe injury ended his football career and left him with major life-altering implications.
Following his injury Ryan channeled his education, faith, love of fitness and passion for helping others into his work with young people as the Director of the Samson's Fitness Centre. Located in downtown Winnipeg this program reaches out to countless young men and women ages 14-21, many of whom are at-risk, providing them with a place to pursue every aspect of their health through training and connecting with a positive community of peers and mentors.
In 2013, after five years with increasing pain and immobility and no longer able to work, Ryan was given the devastating prognosis of a condition called Drop Head Syndrome along with impending permanent paralysis. He was told he had less than a year before this would be his new reality. After searching for possible solutions, Ryan elected to pursue an extreme cervical spine reconstruction surgery offered in Germany. Blessed and supported by family, friends and the community at large, the entire cost of his procedure was raised in just 6 weeks. The surgery on November 21, 2013 successfully stabilized his spine, removing 3 intervertebral discs & his collapsing C4 vertebra and replacing them with a vertebral implant, 3 level fusion, titanium plate, 5 screws and an artificial disc. Today, Ryan is a full inch taller, still walking, and committed to pushing the limits of his recovery.
WHY SIX DEGREES FREEDOM
Six Degrees (of) Freedom is an anatomical phrase that has come to mean everything to me. When the spine is considered healthy, it is able to move freely in all 6 degrees of motion, 3 in the translational plane (forward/back, up/down, side-to-side), and 3 in the rotational plane (rotating, forward/backward bending, side-to-side bending). The gift of my new neck is at least partial movement in these planes, and the continued ability to walk, use my hands and hold my head up! But more importantly this phrase speaks to the freedom I have been given to live resiliently, reframe adversity and help others with what I have learned along the way.
The concept for this website came to me as I was painfully yet gratefully walking around my hospital wing at 3am one night, a few days after my surgery. I decided as soon as my body allowed it, I would create a website to promote health & wellness, resource others with spinal injuries and to inspire and encourage anyone facing adversity. Aided by media appearances in print, radio and television, Six Degrees Freedom has truly grown into an online community, connecting with people all over the world! When my health permits I write, blog on the website and speak at fundraisers, banquets, schools, conferences, corporate events, churches and anywhere that could benefit from this message of resilience and hope in the face of adversity.