SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Inside The Mobility Institute of the Savannah Vascular Institute, a prosthetist has a undeniable bond with his patients.
Ryan Fann, 34, takes the time to listen. Seated on the other side of the room is his patient. On this particular day it’s Calvin Frazier who recently had part of his right leg amputated. Frazier is seeking Fann’s counsel to begin the journey of obtaining a prosthetic.
Fann listens for physical changes, pain, progress, and Frazier’s hope for the future, freedom, and the fate of his mobility.
As Fann begins to measures Frazier’s leg, he begins to crack jokes, easing the anxiety of the room.
Even with the laughter, Fann has already done more to solidify the confidence of Frazier without saying a word thanks to a a previous encounter in the hospital.
“I just happen to glance and I told my wife, ‘I believe Ryan has a prosthetic,'” Frazier said. “But you can’t tell! You can’t tell the way he walks. I was just shocked.”
When Fann sat down to talk with Frazier, his pant leg rode up, revealing Fann’s prosthetic leg.
“I don’t consider myself disabled. I’m differently abled,” Fann said.
Fann’s mindset has been with him his whole life. When he was three years-old, Fann was run over and dragged by a car. Through the accident he lost his left leg. In the process, he was fitted with a prosthetic leg allowing him to keep moving.
“When my dad figured out I could play football at five years old, he said, ‘Well,you can cut the yard too.’ And at that point they let me set my own limitations. And I quickly found that I didn’t have any.”
From there he became a multi-sport athlete.
“First place was the only thing I wanted. I think that mentality prevented people from being able to pick on me. Or look down and say, ‘Oh, he can’t do it.’ Cause every day I showed you I could,” Fann said.
As he grew up, he caught the attention of a running coach.
“I got hooked up to the right people. I got a running prosthesis. It was donated to me. I started running track for Tennessee State University.”
Within that time he also started training for the the biggest athletic event of his life.
“Within two years, I was fortunate enough to qualify for the 2004 Paralympic Olympics Games.”
At the age of 20, Ryan flew to Athens and joined the ranks of Team USA.
His first event of the games was the 400 Meter Dash.
“I gave it all that I could and I crossed the finished line and finished third,” he said.
A humble way to say at his first Paralympic Games he earned a bronze medal. In his final event, he would make history. The challenge before him and his teammates: The 4×400 Meter Relay.
“We smoked that one. We went out there and just killed that. We set the world record by five seconds,” Fann said.
The newly 21-year-old flew home with a gold and bronze medal. Fann continued to run professionally while also beginning to explore the world of prosthetics. Soon his time was divided between training and learning the field of prosthetics.
“So I told myself that if I didn’t give it my all, I was just going to give it up,” Fann said.
As one chapter came to a close to an end, a new day was dawning.
“Everything that I’ve been able to be a part of today, it wouldn’t be possible if I hadn’t donated this piece of equipment that I run on,” he said. “Insurance, you know, doesn’t cover it. It can cost upwards to 20 thousand dollars.”
In 2011, he and a friend founded Amputee Blade Runners which provides those who qualify with a free running prosthetic.
“Just because you have a prosthesis doesn’t mean that you can’t run, doesn’t mean that you can’t jump,” Fann affirms to his fellow amputees athletes and patients. “They want to have the ability to go out for the leisure jog or maybe lose a little weight, get in better fitness and there’s other people who want to do a little more extreme things like be a Paralympic star.”
So far ABR has reached more than 140 people in 35 states. Through all his accomplishments, Fann is still faithfully humble to shine the spotlight on those around him.
“There are a lot more people that have impressed me than I believe I have impressed people,” he said. “Of course, it’s a great honor for people to look at me in that light but it’s not necessarily my focus. My focus is whomever I’m in front of, I’m just trying to help them create their own story and inspire someone else.”
Fann’s dream is to build an indoor multi-purpose center focused on amputee athletes.
To get involved, donate or learn more about the recipients with Amputee Blade Runners, click here.