‘Nothing is impossible:’ A UC grad’s story of turning tragedy into triumph

Accident survivor, UC grad authors book of hope

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - University of Cincinnati graduate Ryan Atkins is now a first-time author. That’s an impressive feat by itself, but it’s even more so considering Ryan never penned a single word of his book — he spoke them.

“One Step Closer” is Ryan’s personal story of triumphing over tragedy.

The tragedy happened in 2009. Back then Atkins was a college student in the throes of college life. He was an active 20-year-old. He photographed UC football games. He was on the field for the Orange Bowl.

Then, the car crash.

“Lost control of my vehicle and overcorrected,” Ryan explained, “and all of a sudden my vehicle is flipping off the side of the road.”

Ryan left the crash scene on a stretcher. He was airlifted to the hospital. His heart stopped for more than 100 seconds. An emergency surgery followed. He spent several days in a coma.

At a certain point, Ryan realized he couldn’t move his arms or legs. Until he received his prognosis, though, he didn’t realize the numbness would last.

It would. Multiple fractured vertebrae left him paralyzed. Suddenly Ryan found himself in the crux of a catastrophe, with the crash and its fallout still left to process and a pressing choice apparent before him.

“I looked down at my motionless arms and legs and thought, ‘Hey, either my life is completely meaningless... or there’s a much greater purpose to my life than I could have realized,’” he said.

But the sort of grit Ryan has since honed — the very stuff that makes up “One Step Closer” — isn’t easily won, and he would return to feelings of helplessness through a protracted recovery.

Then he met Stephanie. That is, he met her again.

Stephanie and Ryan were co-stars in a second-grade school play. Childhood valentines, they lost contact when she started at a new school. But thirteen years later, the two reunited.

“I pushed through the security and went to see him as soon as he got out of the hospital,” Stephanie said. “For me, seeing the way that Ryan was processing through what I think a lot of people would view as one of the worst possible things that could happen, I think that just really gave me an authentic look at his true character.”

The couple would wed exactly seven years after the crash, another way Ryan has written over his tragedy with the sublime tenors of a new life.

“There is no story that is beyond redemption, and I believe that we can have hope no matter what our challenges may be,” he said.

“It definitely seems like God has been writing our story since the beginning,” Stephanie added.

Ryan is the writer; he speaks the words to his voice-activated computer. Stephanie does the editing. It’s a tag-team effort that’s proved successful so far, as “One Step Closer” releases this week with messages of growth, hope and compassion.

You can learn more here.

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