Overheard: 'Waiting for our son to wake up'
Ryan can breathe on his own but has a tracheotomy tube so that his breathing isn't obstructed by his inability to swallow.
June 19th, 2012
12:49 PM ET

Overheard: 'Waiting for our son to wake up'

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

Seventeen-year-old Ryan Buchanan was deprived of oxygen for almost 20 minutes after a sand tunnel collapsed on him at the beach in California. That was one year ago, and now Ryan — who is in a persistent vegetative state — is at home with his family.

The Buchanans’ decision to keep Ryan at home (and alive) has polarized CNN commenters. They expressed their strong opinions on the story, “Waiting for our son to wake up,” published this week.

Some shared personal experiences that related to what the family might be experiencing, even saying they should hold out for a miracle:

Lonnie F Parrish
My wife and I are in our 27th year of taking our son home [after a] head injur[y]. Took us a year and a half to wake him from a coma. … At the time we were strong and willing and we figured that if we didn't try nobody else would. So we did and we woke him up but during that process we became closer to our son than we ever were before and he became a part of who we were.

Until a family is faced with a crisis such as this, they don't know what type of choices they would make. My son was critically injured last July 16 and spent 9 weeks in intensive care and the first 10 days we didn't know if he was going to survive or not. My son's life and mine has been drastically changed forever, and our journey continues on a day to day basis. I can't tell this family to pull the plug on their child because I don't know if I could have done that with mine if ultimately faced with that decision. Right or wrong, I understand the love of a parent for a child and today I am able to touch my son and and feel his heart beat and it is worth all we have gone through.

I have an uncle who attempted suicide by putting a shot gun to his forehead. The doctors told my grandparents it was hopeless, that he would never wake up, that he would never get better. My mother stayed by his bedside for months and prayed while holding his hand. One day that hand moved. Today my uncle has two children, a loving wife, and five grandchildren. Never give up hope. Miracles happen every day.

Others contributed sympathy, support and prayer:

Bless that family. If only we could help. You never know – Ryan could wake up. I would never want to stay in that state; however, would never judge the family. There is so much love there.

Peter Ishak
May God be with this family! Let's not judge the parents because none of us were in this situation. We should be praying for them, not criticizing them!!!!

To those who would pull the plug on their kids.. you're messed in the head. I would never, ever, pull the plug on someone I love.. because you never know what could happen. They could have a full recovery and life a normal, healthy life. But if you're selfish and don't want to give them a chance, then that life will never happen. I'm sure if you were in the same situation, you would want people to try to keep you alive... right?

Yet most said the family has not made the right decision:

Dying is part of life. Whether we like it or not, it happens. To ... [keep] a body partially functioning with extensive aid from mechanical devices and drugs and call that living is an atrocity. For parents and care givers to keep a vegetative human alive instead of using their energy, time and resources helping those who could truly benefit is also selfish. How many lives could be improved or even saved by organ donation?

People should be allowed to die with dignity. As heart wrenching as these situations are, seeing someone in a coma for years and die slowly from an infected bedsore or other septic process is no better.

I understand people who love their children unconditionally. I love my two children in the same manner. However, if there comes a time to make a choice between a vegetative state so I can sit and watch a game with them versus a certain quality of life that my children (or any human) deserves - as a dad, I would respectfully end my son's life and pay tribute to him everyday with a smile of my memories and a gift to others. That would make me happier than anything else given the circumstances. I'm sorry to the family to have to go through this.

I'm sorry, but the parents need to face the fact that he's not waking up. Their son Ryan is gone, and has been gone since June 2011. They need to grieve and try to move on rather than living their lives in false hope

Almost as many readers wrote about Ryan’s expensive medical care, which is about $40,000 per month:

Financing the care for all this should be done out of their own pocket. $500,000 a year adds up and is the reason insurance is ridiculous for most people.

The family should be allowed to choose how to care for their son.
 If they can afford it themselves.

This may seem callous but it needs to be asked: Who is paying the $40,000 monthly bill? If his vegetative state goes [on for] a year that's $480,000, 10 years that's $4.8 million and that's not adjusting for inflation. [If] public monies are even remotely involved - some serious accountability needs to be looked at. And if it's all insurance, it's no wonder rates are going up.

This is a terribly sad situation. I can't imagine being in the parents' shoes. Having said that, I question the cost to an already over-burdened state. $40,000 per month. For how many years? For how many similar instances? (Does anyone know how many cases like this are being covered by the State of California?). Yes, it is crass to be talking about money – but money is a resource – and like all resources, it is limited. The money spent on this is not available for use somewhere else.

Others addressed fellow comments that used the phrase “pull the plug,” saying this terminology is not appropriate:

Just a general point, and as someone who went through this agony when my mom had a sudden cardiac arrest and was on life support, the expression "pull the plug" may sound funny but it isn't. It makes it sound like these decisions are as easy and meaningless as turning off a light. Someone used that expression in talking about my mother when she was in a coma, and I will never forget how hurtful and callous it was.

He is breathing on his own, people, there is no plug to pull! So would you then starve him to death? It's expensive to maintain him, true. But walk the mile in their shoes before you spout such hateful and selfish rhetoric as I have read below. For all you know, his is cognizant in there, he just can't move or express it.

What do you think about the excruciating decisions Ryan’s family has faced? Is it possible to know how one would react without suffering a similar loss? Share your opinion in the comments area below, or sound off on video via CNN iReport.

soundoff (55 Responses)
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