Ryan Abele, a freshman at the University of Nevada, Reno, sustained life-threatening head injuries after falling down the stairs of his fraternity house on Sunday, Oct. 16. He died the following Friday after his family decided to take him off life support and donate his organs.
Ryan was rushed to Renown Regional Medical Center and received an emergency operation immediately after his fall. He lived close to a week past the doctor’s expectations.
Despite having extensive bleeding on the left side of his brain and a ruptured main artery to the brain that caused severe swelling, Ryan showed hopeful signs. However, the results from an MRI conducted Thursday revealed the tissues on the left side of his brain had died.
Ryan’s brother, Matt Abele, shared these details about his brother’s passing in a Facebook post on Friday, along with the news of the family’s decisions to donate Ryan’s organs.
During Ryan’s nearly weeklong fight for life, thousands of people rushed to support Ryan and his family, raising over $70,000 on his GoFundMe page.
Prayer services held in Reno and in his hometown of Concord, California, brought together hundreds of people. People began wearing green #RyanStrong T-shirts that were made to raise more money for the family’s medical expenses.
UNR Police Services investigated the incident at the Sigma Nu fraternity house and did not find anything suspicious.
“We responded to the hospital after receiving a call from them that this young man had fallen down stairs,” said Assistant Chief Todd Renwick to the East Bay Times. “… We’ve looked into the incident, and it appears to just be an accident.”
Friends of Ryan told the Reno Gazette-Journal he was at the house to clean up with other members of his fraternity when he fell.
Almost immediately after the accident, friends, family and acquaintances took to social media, sharing their prayers for recovery and support. They described Ryan as a caring and loyal friend.
“There is not one person who Ryan wasn’t friends with or there for,” said Lauren Harrison, a lifelong friend of Ryan, to the RGJ.
A tremendous amount of support flooded in from Ryan’s high school, UNR, Greek life and the Reynolds School of Journalism. Individuals inside each community, including professors and past mentors of Ryan, all emphasized the power of prayer and hoped for a miracle.
Those closest to Ryan shared updates from the doctors and signs of hope.
On Wednesday, Oct. 19, Ryan’s mom, Wendy Abele, reported on www.ryanabele.com that the active bleeding in Ryan’s brain had stopped and he had been moving his fingers and toes.
A prayer service Thursday night at Our Lady of Wisdom church on campus brought more than 200 people together to sign baseballs and UNR flags before joining some of his closest family members and friends in prayer.
Matt Abele thanked the nurses and doctors at Renown in a Facebook post on Friday, Oct. 21, as well as the hundreds of family members and friends who had reached out and shown their support for the Abele family.
Matt Abele had one request for those who knew Ryan. He told people to “take a moment, recall your fondest memory with Ry and smile, because he’s always been good at making people smile.”
As of Sunday, Oct. 23, Ryan remained on life support while his family said their goodbyes and met with the donor team.
“I’m just not ready to let him go. Thank you for the tremendous amount of love, support and prayers that each and everyone has shown,” Wendy Abele said in an update on Ryan’s website.
Emily Fisher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.