TODAY

TODAY   |  December 15, 2010

Mother of beaten teen: ‘I pray he wakes up’

The parents of Ryan Diviney, who are expending themselves caring for their handicapped son, says their love and faith are helping them cope with their son’s difficult fate of traumatic brain injury caused by the savage act of strangers.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

ANN CURRY, anchor: This morning on TODAY'S HEALTH , we want to introduce you to the Diviney family, whose faith and hope is an inspiration. They've given up everything to care for their son Ryan , who was left in a coma after a brutal beating near the West Virginia University campus. Sue and Ken Diviney remember the last time their son Ryan hugged them.

Mr. KEN DIVINEY: He was full of joy. It was a football Thursday. I remember getting to his house and him hugging us.

CURRY: Growing up in Ashburn , Virginia , Ryan was an all- American boy playing football and baseball in high school , going to West Virginia University .

Mr. DIVINEY: He had a passion for sports, he had a passion for debate, he had a passion for women.

Ms. SUE DIVINEY: He wanted to make the world a better place.

CURRY: But their world came crashing down on November 7th , 2009 ; Ryan had been walking with friends off campus when they got into a heated argument with a pair of strangers, who were later convicted of attacking Ryan . They punched him and then kicked him in the head until he lay unconscious. Witnesses say it was as if Ryan 's head was being, quote, "punted like a football." At the hospital, Ryan was in a coma, listed in grave condition.

Ms. S. DIVINEY: They basically told us they felt he had 24 to 48 hours to live.

CURRY: Thirteen months later, after nine surgeries and eight months of rehab, Ryan is living at home, still in a coma, where taking care of him is now a full-time job. His day starts at 8 AM with 40 different prescriptions.

Ms. S. DIVINEY: I'm going to give you a little bit of juice, OK?

CURRY: He spends 90 minutes in an oxygen chamber and hours with therapists.

Unidentified Woman #1: Jeez, what a workout.

CURRY: His doctors make house calls.

Unidentified Man #1: This is normal, nothing to worry about.

CURRY: But Ryan 's full-time therapist is his father, Ken .

Mr. DIVINEY: I hate what they did. I hate that they didn't give Ryan the opportunity to introduce himself because they would have loved him.

CURRY: But the Divineys don't focus on the past where every day is critical to Ryan 's recovery.

Unidentified Man #2: Turn your head!

Unidentified Woman #2: Yeah! Good job, buddy. Good job, Ryan .

CURRY: Moments like these are rare, but cherished by devoted parents.

Ms. S. DIVINEY: There you are. Hi. You see me? You're doing great. Yes, you are. You just got a bump on your head. You're waking up.

CURRY: Ken and Sue Diviney are now joining us, along with their daughter Kari . Good morning to all of you.

Mr. DIVINEY: Good morning.

Ms. S. DIVINEY: Morning.

Ms. KARI DIVINEY: Good morning.

CURRY: You know, as you well know, and correct me if any of this is incorrect, but over the last 13 months, I understand that Ryan 's heart has stopped beating more than twice, he's not only survived these nine surgeries, one of them included a tracheotomy, he's had a feeding tube, a shunt in his brain, a filter implanted in his stomach and he's also had part of his skull removed. Sue , I guess the question most everybody wants to know the answer to is what gets you through this every day?

Ms. S. DIVINEY: I think it's just, you know, my love for our family and for Ryan . We've always been really, really close. I mean, he's my baby. I mean, you know, I can't live without him. I mean, I need him to, you know, wake up and, you know, I pray every day that, you know, he's going to wake up. I just -- it's all about Ryan , I -- you know, he's been an amazing son and, you know, I know that he's fighting in there. You know, they gave us 24 to 48 hours that he'd live, we're 13 months out now, you know, he's in there fighting and, you know, we're standing right by him and, you know, I know he's going to wake up one of these days .

CURRY: And what gives you that faith that he's going to wake up one of these days ? Are doctors giving you hope by something they're saying, Ken ? I mean, I know -- I need to point out -- I don't know that we said it enough in the piece that we just showed, but you, even after the therapists go, there you are, you stay with him, massaging his legs, doing it -- massaging his feet, you know, you even watch football together, you read him the newspaper, trying to keep him stimulated. It's remarkable, the amount of love you are showing your son. But what are the doctors telling you? And is it love or hope that's really driving you?

Mr. DIVINEY: Doctors generally are not willing to share their information with us or how they think his outlook will be. The standard answer we get is, 'Everyone is different.' So going on that theory, my son is different in a very good way; he's made of the right stuff. So my objective is to give him every hope that if he does wake, that we minimize the physical challenges and we're able to focus more on the cognitive.

CURRY: Yeah. Ryan 's not here to speak for himself, but I understand he was very smart, he was hilarious, energetic, he loved to make people laugh and smile. Kari , when you watch your parents doing what they're doing for your brother, what are your thoughts? What goes through you?

Ms. K. DIVINEY: I just think of how amazing of parents they are, and I just feel bad that they have to go through this and, you know, do this every day because they deserve nothing but happiness. But I completely look up for them -- to them for everything they've done for my brother, and I know that they would do the same thing for me.

CURRY: He wanted to be a lawyer, he wanted to be a judge, potentially. Sue , I know that a lot of people watching this will want to know if there's anything that they can do to help. Is there anything you want to say about that?

Ms. S. DIVINEY: Yeah. I mean, I -- you know, I really, you know, anybody that, you know, in their heart wants to help out, the expenses are getting, you know, very high right now, a lot of the treatment that he's getting, you know, will not be covered under our insurance, you know. If anybody wants to make any donations, we have a site that's set up, ryansrally.org. We also have a Facebook site, Come Together for Ryan Diviney . And that's a site where people just, you know, write to us and, you know, it enables us to, you know, keep our friends and family up to date on how Ryan 's doing.

CURRY: Mm-hmm.

Ms. S. DIVINEY: And it -- you know, it just -- it's one of those things -- you asked before how it keeps us going, you know, that's one of the things that helps keep us going is the people, you know, our families, the community, we have the best neighbors, you know, our parents, everybody, they've just been amazing.

CURRY: Circling the wagons around them.

Mr. DIVINEY: One of the advantages of...

Ms. S. DIVINEY: Mm-hmm.

Mr. DIVINEY: ... Ann , one of the advantages of helping Ryan is it's also helping with the research. Because traumatic brain injury is so unknown, the brain is such a complex organ that it's mostly not understood. Recent developments are getting closer, and Ryan 's going to be going through this new sort of research.

CURRY: Well, fingers crossed for you. And also, I know everyone would wish to give you a big hug and encouragement for what you're doing. Ken , Sue and Kari Diviney , thank you so much .