Ryan Davis looks out from under his baseball cap in downtown Savannah’s Hull Park on a recent September morning. He answers questions about the night he nearly died: the explosion and torn limbs, the failure of the helicopter trying to save him, his bleeding and suffocation.
But that hot summer night three years ago in the Afghan desert was actually “rewarding,” according to U.S. Army Ranger Sgt. 1st class. He saw the Americans rally to save him.
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But he woke up in a Texas hospital bed unable to speak with a tube in his throat and “missing things”.
“It was the worst,” Davis, 36, said.
Here’s how the elite soldier, once caught between the desire to die on the battlefield and the disgust of living with lost limbs, remained resilient.
“Typical night for bad guys”
Before the Army, the Oklahoma native was a wild, outdoorsy kid. He was bored working in insurance after college. From his office, Davis would see a flight doctor through the window and question his own career.
He needed more active work, agreed his future wife Asia, a preschool teacher from Chicago whom he met at a party in Oklahoma City. So, Ryan joined the army. During basic training, the leaders signed him up with the special forces, and he volunteered to become a Ranger.
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On August 16, 2019, a grenade exploded near him in Afghanistan. Ryan’s lungs collapsed and he saw that his mutilated right arm and leg were useless.
Davis was bleeding and choking. He calmly contemplated his name on a black Killed in Action bracelet. “I was totally okay with that,” he says.
But he felt bad that Asia didn’t have a husband and their son didn’t have a father.
“You find a way to be happy”
Be in top shape and you might be part of the elite 75th Ranger Regiment. But the soldiers remaining at the 75th are naturally motivated, fit and brave, according to Davis.
They learn to laugh in hardship, whether after hiking 40 miles with bleeding feet or in the face of evil. “You find a way to enjoy these things. You find a way to be happy,” Davis says.
He remembers that August night after the explosion in a positive light.
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He suffered a traumatic brain injury and waited for help for two hours in the hot, dark desert. Several needles to his chest gave him breath, and another burly Ranger pressed his knee into Ryan’s stomach to stop the bleeding.
“Get your knee out of my stomach. You’re so fat!” he remembers saying.
A buddy told Ryan he would die if the man took his knee out. Ryan consented. Moreover, fellow soldiers gave him blood – from their own bodies.
A helicopter trying to save Ryan has crashed. Enemy contact returned a second rescue helicopter. Finally, a third rescued him, but shook him violently beyond his weight limit. Near the ground, the enemy fired at them, Davis recalled.
Dozens of soldiers lined up to donate about two dozen gallons of blood for Ryan’s 8,000-mile flight to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.
“Finally Beginning Not to Die”
Asia sits across from Ryan in Hull Park, scrolling through her phone with long blue fingernails. Her Facebook memory from three years ago looks back to Ryan’s “best day yet.”
He no longer needed dialysis or a feeding tube on September 20, 2019, a reversal after a month of decline following the explosion.
“We were finally starting to not die,” Ryan says.
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Ryan woke up one day to hear screaming in the hospital hallway. It was Asia, pushing for him more aggressive care. “They called him ‘The Warden’ in Texas,” Ryan says.
“They didn’t like me,” she added.
Asia pats Ryan on the arm happily: “He hated me too.”
The infection and lack of blood flow led to more and more surgeries – too many, according to Asia. “They just kept cutting. There will be nothing left,” she recalls thinking.
Ryan, who has lost three limbs, will only keep his left arm. She asked for ways to stop her infection and went up the chain of command for help.
“I just thought there was something else we could try,” she says.
Someone told him about a Japanese medicine. The antibiotic Cefiderocol arrived in a box with big capital letters: “Not FDA Approved”. Asia signed papers saying she understood the risk.
Ryan’s health recovered in three days. “Without the drugs, he wouldn’t have survived,” says Asia.
Another boost came from online videos Ryan watched of the retired Army Master Sgt. Travis Mills, who lost both arms and both legs after an explosion while serving in Afghanistan in 2012.
Mills visited Ryan. “He said I would be fine,” Ryan says. “That’s all I needed.”
“Don’t Make Him Sad”
People say the triple amputee is lucky to be alive.
“Well, you should see me put my pants on this morning,” laughed Ryan.
Davis would rather say that he is lucky to have survived. Ten years as a Ranger has forged resilience, and he says the Rangers job is tougher than having some 50 surgeries. were attached elsewhere.
The couple agree that life is difficult. But it’s not a bloody story. “My wife is by far my main motivation for doing just about anything,” Ryan says.
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“She completes me,” he jokes in a funny voice. Both laugh.
Ryan says he joined the military and volunteered for special forces work. A sad state of mind doesn’t help anyone, according to Ryan.
“Don’t make him sad,” he says of his story. “If it sounds like LeAnn Rimes in the background, I don’t want to be part of it.”