A Hammond, Ind., teen who kept on pushing forward in life despite coping with the strain of needing two heart transplants died Wednesday at Franciscan St. Margaret Health hospital, the Post-Tribune reports.
Ryan Brown didn't make excuses.
The bright 18-year-old tenaciously kept up with his studies with the help of teachers and staff at 21st Century Charter School at Gary and was on track to graduate next year with college credits.
All this despite having to deal with the rigors of two heart transplants—one at age 12 and one on May 15—resulting from having been born premature with a congenital heart defect.
"God gave me a jacked-up heart to show people that you can have the worst medical symptoms, the worst medical life, the worst outlook, the worst experiences, but the thing that stops you from being great is yourself," Brown told the Post-Tribune in a July 19 story, less than two weeks before his passing.
The teen had dreams of getting his associate degree from Ivy Tech before moving on to study biomedical engineering at Purdue University.
"I kind of feel like settling for GED is a failure, a cop-out. … If I can do it, I can do it. Medical restrictions shouldn't be an excuse to drop out and get a GED," Brown told the news site.
Brown's school posted the earlier Post-Tribune story on its Facebook page July 20, declaring that "students like these are why our teachers come to school every day, arriving early and staying late. These students are our #inspiration."
According to the Post-Tribune, earlier this month he was realistic but unfazed by his prognosis.
"They tell me I'm going to die; I assume that I'm going to live," he said. "Statistics say that I won't graduate because I'm black; I'm going to graduate and not only graduate with a diploma but, oh yeah, a two-year associate's degree. So the reality is life is what you make it."
His school's principal called him an inspiration to fellow students, noting his indomitable energy and will.
"Ryan fought hard to do the simple things most of us take for granted," Principal Anthony Cherry told the Post-Tribune. "He really wanted to play football and roughhouse like most boys do, but he couldn't because of the fragile nature of his heart.
"He made the children around him more grateful because he openly shared his trials and often chastened them for not living life to the fullest," the principal added. "Ryan was a great kid and will be sorely missed."