Ryan Shewcov remembers when he couldn’t drive his automobile, when he wasn’t allowed to do much of anything.
That was back in 2011 when he was finishing more than a year of therapy at the Sargent Rehabilitation Center in Warwick. Shewcov, then 24, had been through two brain surgeries and countless therapy sessions as the result of an assault at a Providence nightspot that doctors feared would leave the Johnston High School graduate confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life because of brain damage.
After the assault on June 19, 2010, Shewcov was rushed to Rhode Island Hospital where doctors figured his chances of survival were slim unless they performed emergency craniotomy surgery.
His parents, Carl and Karen Shewcov, were told their son needed a miracle to pull through.
Now 25 years old and “feeling good these days,” Shewcov says he feels like “a walking miracle.” He shared that miraculous story last Wednesday at Barnes & Noble in Smithfield, which hosted a signing for his book, “A Walk in My Shoes.”
Friends, admirers and supporters who wanted to purchase his book and have it signed included Chris Palombo, who met Shewcov through friend Joe Zangrilli. Palombo said he “just came to show some support for a courageous guy.”
There were also people like Donna Lorditch, who survived a brain injury in a motor vehicle accident.
Shewcov, who was all smiles throughout the two-hour session, reflected on his decision to write a book.
“I kind of just wrote it,” he said. “I couldn’t do anything else but go through rehab. What else could I do? I thought by writing I was actually learning more about my injuries and that my experiences would help other people.”
While Shewcov’s story is one of recovery and survival, his book chronicles the challenges he faced as well.
“I just sat down and wrote and reflected on what I saw at Spaulding [Hospital] during some of my therapies. I saw some pretty ugly stuff there. Nobody realizes all the brain injuries [that] occur,” he said.
Still, he is hopeful that victims going through similar situations and their loved ones could benefit from his story.
“I also hope people who read my book will get some hope,” he said. “Even if people don’t have an injury, they can get something out of it. I think the book will give people hope and in some cases help them persevere.”
Personally, Shewcov found the experience to be therapeutic. Today, he realizes that his injury and recovery have made him stronger and more appreciative of what he has.
“Enjoy life while you can. Anything can and often does happen. Don’t stress over little things because life is so precious,” he said.
In addition to being a first-time author, Shewcov is also a student at the Community College of Rhode Island where he is finishing physiology classes and will soon apply for a course in occupational therapy. Some day, he hopes to help people as they battle the same challenges he faced during rehab.
“I want to go out of state and get a job in the therapy area like I went though and keep something moving with the book,” he said.
A book, he added, that would not have been possible without his physicians, friends and family who supported him.
“I had lots of support. But my parents, they are truly amazing – and look, they’re right here again tonight,” he said.