Location: Ruston, Louisiana
Date: February 24, 1991


On the afternoon of February 24, 1991, Ryan Laurence and his friend, Stuart Cary, of Ruston, Louisiana, planned to build a fort. Stuart's father, Bill, gave Stuart his hatchet so the boys could cut small trees and branches. Stuart's mother, Vicki, argued with Bill about the wisdom of allowing eleven-year-old boys to play with a hatchet, but Bill was convinced Stuart was old enough and responsible enough to handle the tool.

For a couple of hours Stuart and Ryan worked on their fort in a pine thicket at the elementary school, which was a few blocks from Stuart's house. On their way home, Ryan saw a rope hanging from a tree that the children used for swinging. The rope, which had a loop at its end, hung a few feet above the ground at the edge of a hill. Ryan, a practical joker, ran to the rope and slipped the loop around his neck. "Hey, I'm going to hang myself," he yelled to Stuart. "That's not funny," Stuart replied.

Stuart heard some kids in the distance and turned to see who they were. Moments later, when he turned back to Ryan, he saw hanging limply from the rope. It appeared that his knees were resting on the ground. "Hey, that's not funny," Stuart yelled again, annoyed.

Stuart ran over to Ryan and shook him, but Ryan didn't respond. Slowly it dawned on Stuart that Ryan wasn't joking. In fact, he was unconscious. Ryan must have lost his footing on the slippery pine needles. The incline of the hill had kept his feet from touching the ground.

Stuart tried to remove the rope from Ryan's neck, but Ryan's weight made the noose too tight. Stuart was worried that his friend was dead, but he told himself to stay calm. He ran for the hatchet, which he'd dropped nearby. Stuart wasn't sure if he was doing the right thing, but he decided to cut through the rope with the hatchet.

Once he sawed through the thick rope, Ryan fell to the ground. Stuart ran to his house for help. "Come quick! Ryan's hurt!" he screamed as he ran up the driveway. The Carys drove a few blocks to the thicket and found Ryan convulsing. He was blue and had a terrible rope burn around his neck. Vicki ran to a neighbor's house and dialed 911.

Captain Stephen Beard, who was patrolling a few blocks away, arrived moments before EMT Captain Kenneth Ambrose and his rescue team. Ambrose immediately recognized Ryan--his own son went to church with him. The medics had to move Ryan down the hill while keeping his airway open--no small feat, since the bank was steep and slippery. Ryan's mother, Vane Geter, arrived. As she watched the medics load Ryan into the ambulance, she thought she felt him slipping away.

Upon his arrival at Lincoln General Hospital, Ryan was given medication to control his seizures. Then he was airlifted to Schumpert Medical Center in Shreveport, where he was treated. The doctor told Vane that they would have to wait to see if Ryan came out of his coma without brain damage. The big unanswered question was how long Ryan had been deprived of oxygen: that would be key in assessing the extent of brain damage he might suffer.

Vane sat by her son's side. After sixteen long hours, Ryan opened his eyes and turned to his mother. "Ryan, it's Mama. Do you know who I am?" Vane asked. "Vane," he responded in a tone that implied it was obivous.

Two days later, Ryan was released from the hospital. He completely recovered and suffered absolutely no brain damage. Since the accident, Stuart and Ryan have become better friends. "Stuart and I are closer now that this happened," says Ryan. "I hope I'll be his friend for the rest of my life, and I'll always be there if he ever needs me."

Vicki and Bill are proud of their son for keeping a cool head and acting quickly. If he hadn't, Ryan wouldn't be here today. Vane is also proud ans appreciative of Stuart. "I thank him and love him from the bottom of my heart. Our families will have a bond that will never be broken."