Ben’s Story


Benjamin Rye is one of America’s military elite – a physically strong, mentally tough, specially trained Army Ranger. He exemplifies courage, having proudly served his country on six tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ben’s toughest challenge, though, would begin on a stretch of road in Alabama.

On August 27, 2009, while on their way to dinner together, Ben and his wife Katie were struck by a car traveling at high speed. Katie’s injuries were not life threatening, but Ben had been in the direct path of the oncoming vehicle, and had sustained a severe traumatic brain injury.

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) range from mild to severe and can affect thinking, movement, speech, and control of behavior and emotions. More than 1.7 million Americans suffer TBIs each year, with 275,000 of those requiring hospitalization¹.

Brain injury transforms lives in an instant and this 29-year-old military warrior in top physical shape would, in many ways, be starting over. Ben would have to learn to eat, speak, and walk again. His brain and body would need to be retrained to work together. He would need to relearn the multitude of daily living activities that many of us take for granted. But Ben is a fighter who has conquered any challenge set before him, and brain injury would prove to be no different.

Ben emerged from his coma and slowly started to heal. He began to respond to external stimuli, follow commands, and use his fingers to communicate. Each day he made progress, and to Katie, every accomplishment, no matter how small, was a huge victory.

Specialized rehabilitation is critical to a brain-injured patient’s recovery and Ben’s therapy journey would take him across the country three times. Air ambulance was the only viable method of transportation and Angel MedFlight was selected to transport Ben – with Katie by his side each time – on four medical flights. Medically-configured jets and experienced medical crew enabled Ben to safely and comfortably reach the rehabilitation centers that were integral to his continued recovery.

“I knew everything was being taken care of,” says Katie of the medical flight arrangements. “I felt very comfortable, and Ben felt very comfortable. It was awesome.”

Thanks to Ben’s unfaltering determination and an intense regimen of physical, speech, and occupational therapies, today Ben is walking with assistance, speaking, relearning daily living activities, and getting stronger every day. “A line in the Ranger creed is that ‘Surrender is not a Ranger word,’” says Katie. “He’s definitely living that out and not giving up.”

An April 2011 flight with Angel MedFlight took Ben somewhere he hadn’t been in more than a year – to his home state of Washington. After more than 20 months of inpatient therapy, Ben and Katie are excited about being under one roof again. “Even though it’s hard every single day, we’re blessed to be where we’re at,” says Katie. “Ben can communicate with me, he can tell me what he needs, he can tell me he loves me … things are going to be okay.”

Ben’s advice to anyone faced with traumatic brain injury, “Stay strong and trust in God. You are not alone.”

It has been Angel MedFlight’s honor to transport Ben and to see first-hand the huge strides he has made. Visit Ben and Katie’s blog to follow their incredible story of determination and devotion.

¹ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention