June 11, 2008 · Updated 4:44 PM
"Mike Brown said Tuesday night's van trip from Seattle to Bremerton Memorial Stadium was sort of a microcosm of the last few months for his son.He just seemed resolved, like, 'Here we are. We've got to deal with it,' Mike said of 17-year-old Ryan's reaction to the Interstate-5 gridlock that stood between him and the evening of events in his honor at the stadium. He's been that way through all of this. That's been his attitude anyway.All of this started Jan. 23 when a snowboarding accident at Snoqualmie Summit left the teenager partially paralyzed, his fifth vertebra shattered and his sixth fractured. He was taken to Harborview, where he spent nine days in intensive care before moving to Children's Hospital in Seattle.Wednesday, he was discharged from Children's and returned home to Bremerton to continue a rigorous physical therapy program at Harrison Memorial Hospital.Tuesday evening, dubbed Ryan Brown Night by his Bremerton High School soccer teammates, was to be his symbolic return home.The snarled traffic in Seattle delayed it, but didn't prevent it.We almost turned around, Ryan said of the traffic, caused by two major accidents in the I-5 corridor. But Mike Brown kept driving, communicating via cell phone with his wife, Jeannee Renee, a Silverdale hairdresser. And the traffic finally thinned.We thought we'd have another problem at the (Narrows) Bridge, he said, but it was wide open.About 17 minutes into the Knights' Olympic League game against Port Angeles, the Browns' van - recently purchased to facilitate outings and trips to the hospital for the wheelchair-bound Ryan - pulled in. As his parents and 11-year-old sister, Reanna Marie, moved off to the side, he was mobbed immediately by friends and well-wishers. Players in the middle of the game, who'd been glancing at the sidelines waiting for his arrival, smiled and waved.A lot of us have been his teammates since we were in U-10, said the Knights' senior goalkeeper, John Mitchell. Knowing he would be here tonight definitely pumped us up.We had decided a long time ago we wanted to do something special for him, Mitchell said of the team's dedication of the game and the fundraising efforts.On the field, the visiting Roughriders didn't cooperate, shutting the Knights out 3-0. But the event - a combination fundraiser to help defray costs of Ryan's treatment and celebration of his return home after nearly three months - was a success nonetheless.I'm happy with it, said Bremerton coach Lance McCoy of the evening, which drew a couple hundred spectators and the BHS band and cheer squad. This team enjoys the idea of giving to a teammate, and they were going to find a way to help.According to McCoy, a donation station at the gate raised $555, and that figure might swell after the evening's concessions receipts are totaled.Just as important was the face-to-face encouragement Ryan received. So thick was the crowd around him, his electric wheelchair parked on the stadium track, that he was unable to see much of the game that was being played in his name.When the game was over, the Port Angeles players walked across the field to join the Knights in wishing him well.He's played with a lot of kids from all over the area, said Mike Brown, a Bremerton-based contractor. He's been on teams with some of them since they were seven.One of those soccer acquaintances, North Kitsap High School player Zach Fogle became Ryan's roommate at Children's for the final two weeks of his stay. In a shocking coincidence, Fogle - injured in a one-car auto accident - was being treated for spinal chord injuries similar to Ryan's.I knew him a little, Ryan said of the Kingston teen. We're better friends now. It really helps, because we can hang out together.So can the parents. While Ryan and Zach have shared tours of the hospital in their motorized wheelchairs, the Brown and Fogle parents have bonded, according to Jeannee.We've hooked up with the Fogles, she said. And I think the boys are going to be real good friends.Both have vowed total recoveries from their injuries. The weeks of therapy have returned some feeling to Ryan's shoulders and forearms, and he has some feeling in his legs.He's continued to make improvements, Mike Brown said. He's making progress daily, maybe better than we could've expected.There's new stuff I'm doing every day, Ryan agreed of his daily regimen with physical therapist Mike Anderson at Children's. I'm doing a lot of standing, and I've been walking a little on the parallel bars, with some help.Jeannee Brown said she knows exactly where the improvements are coming from, above and beyond the work of the surgeons and therapists at Harborview and Children's.It's because of his will, she said of her son. His goal is to some day walk again ... and he's got this stubborn streak. He gets that hair up on his back and he's gonna do it his way.And Ryan's way, just like being stuck in traffic, is simply to deal with it.I really have to go day to day, he said.Monday, he'll return to BHS for the first time since before the accident and try to resume his junior year. He knows things won't be the same.It's going to be kind of scary, he said. I've been pretty cooped up for three months.It'll be just another thing for Ryan Brown to deal with. "