The hardest seven months of my life

It’s been seven months since I last blogged. I know droves of readers have been waiting anxiously, refreshing their inboxes and wondering why a Wednesday “Flat On My Back” update has not come in awhile. I just wanted to individually apologize to all parties involved that noticed the lack of reading material.

Sorry, mom.

2014 was coming to a close and I could not wait for what 2015 held. I was back in class. My future plans looked a bit more concrete. I could not wait to start the year.

Then this happened:

flat on my back2

Now, I realize a picture of me flat on my back fits nicely with the name of this website. But the name of the website is meant more to convey where I spend quite a bit of time. I did not envision the phrase to encompass where I spent ALL my time. For six entire months.

On December 25th a pressure sore was discovered. (Merry Christmas to me!) It was caused in large part from sitting in the same position for too long. The only remedy is to do the opposite.

Which means lying in bed.

For a long time.

I was left to stare at the ceiling for hours on end each day waiting for skin cells to grow back, which I can now vouch is a much better play on words than watching paint dry. The treatment called for no more than two hours in the wheelchair between extended periods in bed.

The fact that the start of the year kicked off my first time being back in online classes at the University of Cincinnati meant that nearly every precious minute I had upright was spent rushing through a textbook, writing an essay, or studying for an exam, while obsessively glancing at the clock watching my two hours dwindle as if it was a time bomb.

This healing process would not have normally taken so long, but other factors came into play extending the process. A few other health-related conundrums popped up, one after another.

The months involved multiple doctor appointments. A couple of trips to Urgent Care. A hospital visit for a procedure that consisted of a team of five people essentially dropping me while manually transferring me out of my wheelchair.

I canceled plans one after another. Missed friends’ weddings. Rarely could respond to email or the phone. Sequestered in my room in my bed for months on end, I felt more isolated from the outside world than ever before.

On top of increased pain and mental gymnastics, my body would shake throughout the night as if I was being electrocuted. This left me awake night after night staring at the ceiling, wondering how much longer this could possibly take, if I would go crazy before it ended, and dreading the next day of this view:


I never thought anything could rival the four-month stay in the hospital after the accident when my world was turned upside down. That may have been grueling, but my memory of it is foggy at best thanks to being drowned in medication. The first half of 2015 tested me like never before.

Jesus never promised life would be easy, but I found myself thinking, “Can’t I catch a break?” Lying on my back in the middle of the night, I contemplated the truths of the Bible: “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial…” “Consider it pure joy when you encounter trials of various kinds.”

Joy? Seriously?

I knew my perspective needed to change. James 1 promises that these trials develop perseverance and make me mature and complete. As these trials would move into the rearview mirror I could trust God was using them for my ultimate good.

Thankfully however, slowly but surely healing began to take place.

Is everything perfect now?


I’m still mostly unable to leave the house, thanks to my body’s intolerance of the jostling of a car ride. The tightness in my body, especially my chest and shoulders, often leaves me tense, on edge, and unable to concentrate on the person in front of me or the task at hand. I’m still frequently left staring at the ceiling for hours in the middle of the night which leads to sleep deprivation and zoning out mid-conversation as my eyes drift shut on the person in front of me.

But you know what? I’m thrilled. I do not have to lie in bed all day anymore.

My perspective is much different and I’m incredibly thankful. Plus, it’s been a great month.

Here are a few of the highlights…

I’m enjoying being able to focus my time away from the ceiling and more on classes that actually interest me. I’m not ashamed to admit that I have loved plugging away this summer on Microsoft Excel for my Real Estate Finance class. (Cue the nerd jokes.)

Excel Spreadsheet

I finished off the school year meeting with 16 high school guys, culminating in what was one of the most rewarding days of my life.

Comissioning as men 5_3_15

After being isolated in my room for the better part of the year, I have finally gotten to get outside and enjoy some sunlight, often with my sister who is back home after finishing up her junior year of college.

Blog pic Ryan-Laura

I reconnected with high school friends in town for our 13th annual fantasy football draft.

Draft night 7-11-15

My grandparents were in town for a week and I got to spend hours talking with my grandpa. I heard about old family stories, his time serving our country in World War II and the Korean War, and received some in-depth lessons on the stock market.


And then this happened.

Stephanie with Ring

But I’ll save that story for the next blog…

– –

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  1. Tom Lipsey said:

    great having you back Ryan!! Love you man!! peace, tl >


  2. Deborh Weir said:

    Was just wondering this morning if you are okay!


  3. Anne Hoffmann said:

    Thank you Ryan; your Mom isn’t the only one who missed your posts!


  4. Sue said:

    Man, Ryan…. I cannot tell you how incredibly inspiring you are. You have literally come to mind SO many times as I have had issues with my back, constant pain, surgery, and now pain recurrence similar to before surgery…. just when I feel like having a pity party, and succumbing to anxiety….. I think about you, and your perseverance…and reading your blog today…what you have had to endure. All I can say is I love you, precious brother. I continually pray for you. Thank you for sharing your life with us. Your place in the body of Christ is so needed, so critical to our development of godly persective. You teach us so many things. I am indebted to you. Bless you, my brother in Christ.


  5. Judy Dalambakis said:

    So happy to have your blog back!! And so very, very happy for you and Stephanie!! I know everyone says this and I have to also – you are truly an inspiration!! God Bless!!


  6. Ryan – I wanted to let you know that God is using you in amazing ways. I’m a 48-year old woman in Cincinnati and have been following your blog due to friends of mind that are connected to you. I’ve throughly enjoyed your posts and try to assimilate your teaching into my life and walk with Christ. I’ve seen many others touched by you as well.

    I took a bad fall last Thursday and bruised my ribs pretty bad. I’m used to being very active and not one to sit still. I was shocked that something could hurt as bad. Either I’ve been really blessed so far or I’m a big puss or a combination of both. Either way, it was a new reality for me. Every breath hurt and I still dread a sneeze. I’ve spent the last almost week either laying in bed trying to get comfortable or watching movies, reading a book, etc. To complicate matters, I had the side effects of pain killers & muscle relaxants. Again, not the worst but I don’t take anything other than something for a headache occasionally so it was new to me.

    When my pity parties started, I was quickly brought to you and the mercies of God. I know my injury is nothing like yours but I went through periods when I doubted the healing and wondered why this on top of everything else that had happened over the year. It’s been a challenging one to say the least. I kept coming back to trusting the heart of God even when I can’t necessarily feel the hands of God. And thinking of you and your faith that God works ALL THINGS for our good.

    I was saddened to hear about your last 7 months but was thrilled to see your blessings as well. I can’t wait to hear about your engagement and felt such a holy warmth when I saw it. Simply beautiful.

    Most importantly, I wanted to let you know that you’ve made a difference in the way I see life and the inevitable obstacles that it throws at me. I will continue to pray for your healing and look forward to meeting you some day.



    • Laura, thanks for sharing all of that. It sounds like you’ve had quite a year. I appreciate all your encouragement. Glad to have you as a reader.


  7. Bob Buck said:

    So, all I can say is…nice manicure!….. Ok, ok, OK, boos are deserved!

    Ryan, we all have missed your blogs. I am out of words to adequately describe your strength and courage. The only logical answer is our Lord is at work! Many blessing to you and your fiancé with the great manicure! Love you!

    Bob Buck


  8. Joni lipsey said:

    Thank you for the update. Miss you lots


  9. Tia said:

    Are you kidding?!?!!? You’re leaving us hanging for the story?!?! If I wasn’t so happy for you, I’d. . . .

    In the meantime, CONGRATULATIONS. I’m so thrilled for you both – my heart is singing! 🙂


  10. Julie said:

    Ryan you are a warrior! My eyes are misty…so many emotions as I read and re-read your post. Thank you for your update, for your fighting spirit and beautiful words of faith. Can’t wait for the “big news” in your next update. Keep healing and enjoy your new views…


  11. Merrill Shidler said:

    I Love You Ryan! You are such an inspiration to me and my son Ryan. You are continually in our thoughts and prayers.


  12. Judy Cox said:

    Thank you for sharing, Ryan. I know it must have taken great effort physically as well as emotionally just to create this post. It has been my experience that God is truthful about our trials bringing strength. When I recently faced a difficult situation, I realized that I was able to endure, in part because of the previous trials in my life. Your spiritual “stamina” rings true in your ability to overcome whatever the devil throws toward you. May God continue to bless you, my friend.


  13. Hi Ryan –
    We’ve never met, but both share the unfortunate bond of having broken our necks. I’ve been following your blog for some time. Sorry to hear about the pressure sore, all-too-familiar with them. Had one on my foot that lasted almost 2 years. Happy to see that you are getting back up these days. Also, Congratulations on the big news you plan to share with us soon! All the best for the both of you!
    Scott Fedor
    (my shameless plug for my blog if interested in subscribing – )


    • Scott, thanks for checking in. Great to see your blog. I love the Romans 8:18 theme!


  14. Jean Cassell said:

    Glad to have you back….and I can’t wait for the next blog!!!
    Jean Cassell


  15. Jeannie Handelsman said:

    Thank you Ryan. You are a blessing in many, many ways!


  16. Timothy Anderson said:

    hello Ryan! It was good to hear from you again! Your words and experiences and attitude inspire me! They were exactly what I needed to read this morning. I am so sorry to hear of the extremely difficult season. I am praying for you and your family! ….and excited to read your next blog:) God bless you!




  17. Marlene Sims said:


    I am so glad that you are feeling better and back to writing your blog I have missed reading it. I can always count on you to lift me up and remind me of all of God’s blessings. We sometimes get so busy that we don’t stop and listen to God speaking to us. I am so happy to hear about your exciting news and cant wait to read about it.


    • I definitely agree that busyness can be detrimental. Thanks for your message. Looking forward to sharing the next post!


  18. michellebeckham said:

    Glad to see you back online. You are such an inspiration! Looking forward to the next post.


  19. Wow! There are no words that seem appropriate. “Praise God” for you you Ryan Atkins.


  20. Dave Liebing said:

    Good to have your writing back….praying for continued strength and fruitfulness. Looking forward to your next post – God is good!

    Dave Liebing


  21. Matt Massey said:

    Good to have your blog again.


  22. Steve said:


    Thanks for the email connecting me to your bolg. You are a great inspiration. Are you familiar with the Joni and Friends ministry? Joni has been a quad for 48 years now due to a diving accident. My wife and I both volunteer at their family summer camps her in Ohio. You should check it out if you haven’t.


    • Steve,
      Wow! Thanks for your generous offer. I will be passing this along to Stephanie


  23. Good blog dude. We are long overdue for some hang time. You’re on my mind about once a week. Love ya, talk soon.



  24. Sean Sullivan said:

    Very inspirational post Ryan, you have the right attitude even though I’m sure it gets unbearable at times. Keep us updated! Love your material. You are in our prayers

    Sean & Allie Sullivan


  25. dorie cucinotta said:

    Congratulations Ryan, blessings to you and the MRS-TO-BE! I can’t wait to share your wonderful news with Zac, he is out in Ca. working now-


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