HomeNewsFeatures

Feature Search

The road to recovery; Airman defines true meaning of resilience

2nd Lt. Ryan Novack, 36th Munitions Squadron flight leader, prepares to run March 1, 2017 at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Novak was a victim of a serious spinal injury from dirt bike racing, resulting in him being paralyzed below the knee on both legs. After attending months of therapy, Novack has returned back to work and is currently conditioning for the Department of Defense Warrior Games this summer in Chicago, Illinois. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cierra Presentado/Released)

2nd Lt. Ryan Novack, 36th Munitions Squadron flight leader, prepares to run March 1, 2017 at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Novak was a victim of a serious spinal injury from dirt bike racing, resulting in him being paralyzed below the knee on both legs. After attending months of therapy, Novack has returned back to work and is currently conditioning for the Department of Defense Warrior Games this summer in Chicago, Illinois. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cierra Presentado/Released)

2nd Lieutenant Ryan Novack, 36th Munitions Squadron flight leader was a victim of a serious spinal injury caused from dirt bike racing here on Guam. After the incident, Novack was found to be paralyzed in both legs. On his long road to recovery, he went through countless treatments and therapy for months but remained resilient throughout the process. Novack can now walking, running and also conditioning to compete in the 2017 Department of Defense Warrior Games this summer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cierra Presentado/Released)

2nd Lieutenant Ryan Novack, 36th Munitions Squadron flight leader was a victim of a serious spinal injury caused from dirt bike racing here on Guam. After the incident, Novack was found to be paralyzed in both legs. On his long road to recovery, he went through countless treatments and therapy for months but remained resilient throughout the process. Novack can now walking, running and also conditioning to compete in the 2017 Department of Defense Warrior Games this summer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cierra Presentado/Released)

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam --

“I can’t feel my legs, I can’t feel anything.”

These were the words spoken by an Airman who would soon experience and overcome a road filled with pain, courage and resiliency.

2nd Lt. Ryan Novack, 36th Munitions Squadron flight leader, always wanted to race dirt bikes. After learning about the race track here on Guam, it was only a matter of time before he hopped on a bike and pursued his hobby.

After a long day of work, Novack made plans to ride his dirt bike to decompress. After gearing up, it was only a matter of minutes before his life would be changed forever.

“Riding my dirt bike is something I really enjoy doing and I’ve only been doing it for a few months,” Novack said. “I had no idea what was about to happen.”

As Novak began riding the course, he increased his speed not aware of the curve that was right around the corner. As he approached the bend in the track, he realized he could not slow down fast enough. At this moment, he figured he would hang onto the bike and make a smooth land and get back on track, however, his plan failed.

As he hit the turn, he soared through the air with his bike and came crashing down on the hot pavement. During those seconds in the air, his immediate thought was he would be ok. Upon coming in contact with the ground, Novack’s wingman, Master Sgt. Jeffery Maume, came rushing to his side to assess the situation.

“My first thought was I’ll be OK, it’s just a fall,” Novack said “When I fell, I was not yet aware that I had lost all feeling in my legs.”

When an individual has a physically traumatic injury, it is known that you should not move until you receive medical attention from professionals to avoid spinal or further injury. Novack however, did not realize the extent of his injury and attempted to stand up to walk it off.

“I didn’t think it was that bad, I thought of it as a combination of adrenaline and slight pain. I was definitely in denial about the seriousness of what it was.”

After attempting to get up, Novack realized he could not feel his legs. His wingman advised that he lay there while he called for help. In a matter of minutes, Novack was loaded onto a stretcher and sent to the U.S. Naval Hospital Guam.

“Even in the ambulance, I was still sure that this wasn’t anything more than a small injury,” he said.  

Upon arriving at the hospital and receiving CAT scans, Novack was found to have a broken back, spinal compression and a shattered T12 vertebrae. He was then transferred to Guam Regional Memorial Hospital where he would receive further care before being medically evacuated to Hawaii for treatment.

“While I was in the hospital, I decided to stay positive and hopeful because negativity won’t improve recovery,” he said. “I was thankful for my friends and co-workers who came by to support me during my time, they definitely made everything better.”

Novack had his first sense of feeling in his lower extremity with a twitch in his big toe while in intensive care. This would be enough for him to remain. After spending three weeks in Hawaii, Novack was able to get the feeling in his right leg back.

Just as things were going well, the doctors found something that would change his life forever.

“During a surgical procedure, they found an infection,” he said. “There was bacteria on my spinal fusion hardware. I developed a bad fever and was put on medication, medication that I would need to take for the rest of my life.”

The news was devastating. Thoughts that he would have to leave the military crossed his mind and although everything that could go wrong, went wrong, he still remained faithful that everything would work out in the end.

“The news was difficult to swallow,” he continued. “I had to go through eight weeks of intravenous antibiotics and start this new process of taking medication every day for the rest of my life.”

Fortunately for Novack, his family was at his side through it all.

“I had my mother with me, so I wasn’t alone. I’m thankful for that.”

For the remainder of his recovery in Hawaii, Novack still did not have any feeling in his left leg. When the option for him to be medically discharged out of the military came up, he put his foot down and made it clear that he did not want to leave and that he would overcome his injury and come back stronger than ever.

“There’s no way I was going to take the easy road out,” he said. “This injury is temporary and I knew I would get better with time. I didn’t want to throw away something that I always wanted to do, which was to be an Air Force Airman.”

Once again, Novack remained faithful and received the news that he was well enough to leave and would be attending rehabilitation in Chicago where he would be near family members. Here, he would spend six months in intensive rehab, regaining his strength and preparing to return to work.

“Rehab was great,” he said. “I got the opportunity to participate in the Air Force Wounded Warrior events, which I was grateful to be a part of.”

After completing physical therapy and getting some feeling back in both legs, Novack made an astounding recovery and made his way back to Andersen AFB, Guam, to get to work. Although he was on crutches and had braces on both legs, he reported to his workplace proud. He overcame his injury and remained resilient.

“Returning back to work was a proud moment,” he said. “I felt just as strong as I did before the incident. The healing process will take a while, but I’m excited and willing to finish.”

Novack recently ran his first mile since the injury in 15 minutes and is determined to continue to run so he can achieve over a 90 on his official physical training test.

“I’m excited to do big things; a biathlon, half iron marathon and just more physical activities overall,” he said. “I miss biking, but I definitely won’t be doing that anymore!”

This summer, Novack will be competing in the 2017 Department of Defense Warrior Games hosted in Chicago, where he will be competing in the rifle, pistol, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair racing and swim team.


Social Media

Facebook Twitter
https://www.postguam.com/news/local/baby-turtles-head-for-the-sea/video_dba30e92-8336-11e8-8269-4b8efe2566d0.html One of the perks of living in Guam: seeing adorable baby sea turtles migrate. Check out this bale of the newly hatched creatures at Castro beach.
Social media is a quick and easy way to stay in touch with friends and keep up to date with whats going on. Unfortunately posting the wrong thing to social media can be a quick and easy way to find yourself in hot water. Make sure that what you're posting is allowed and that you aren't violating any regulations or OPSEC standards. For more information on social media use visit our website at: http://www.andersen.af.mil/Units/Wing-Staff-Agencies/Public-Affairs/
In an effort to keep the base population informed of emergency situations occuring on or around the installation, there is the new AtHoc App available for download.
Congratulations to Col. Daniel Roesch for assuming command of the 36th Contingency Response Group, and we would like to say thank you to Col. Carmelo Giovenco for all of his contributions to Andersen. Please feel free to like share and tag. For high resolution photos of the event check out our Flickr albums at the link below! https://www.flickr.com/photos/andersenafb/albums/72157669041030347
Command Chief Master Sergeant of Pacific Air Forces Anthony Johnson visited Andersen Air Force Base, Guam and witnessed a new generation of defenders showcase their skills. Photos from this visit can be found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/andersenafb/albums/72157698378001974 U.S. Pacific Air Forces #TeamAndersen #CommandoWarrior #DefenderChallenge #SecurityForces, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, Joint Region Marianas,
The 2018 Advanced Combat Skills Assessment hosted at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam allowed Security Forces members from throughout the Pacific to put their talents to the test. The teams participated in events such as shooting, combatives, and mental and physical challenges. For more photos of the event visit our flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/andersenafb/albums/72157670479415428 U.S. Pacific Air Forces, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, United States Air Force, Airman Magazine Yokota Air Base, Misawa Air Base, Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Osan Air Base, Joint Region Marianas, @joJoint Base Elmendorf-Richardson JBER (official), KadenaAirBase, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, U.S. Air Force Security Forces
Congratulations to Lt. Col. Lori Hodge for assuming command of the 36th Force Support Squadron, and we would like to say thank you to Lt. Col. Dawn Standridge for all of her contributions to Andersen. Please feel free to like share and tag. For high resolution photos check out our Flickr albums at the link below! https://www.flickr.com/photos/andersenafb/albums/72157698269347454
Andersen Exchange and Food Court are now open for normal hours of operation
Delayed reporting authorized for Andersen AFB For Immediate Release July 5, 2018 0600 Delayed reporting has been authorized for all non-mission essential Andersen AFB personnel. The adjusted report time is now 10:00 a.m. All mission essential personnel should report at normal times. Please contact your chain of command for more details. (This post will be updated as new information becomes available) Stay safe! AFMS - Andersen - 36th Medical Group, 36th Force Support Squadron, Joint Region Marianas,
***CONDITIONS WILL CONTINUE TO DETERIORATE THIS EVENING ACROSS THE MARIANAS***
I added a video to a @YouTube playlist https://t.co/L6qxWeTonG 2018 GOE LtCol(ret) Bill Schwertfeger (USAF) Introduction Video
I added a video to a @YouTube playlist https://t.co/D12k6pue6C 2018 GOE LtCol(ret) Kelly Latimer (USAF) Introduction Video
I added a video to a @YouTube playlist https://t.co/K8ru68GaS9 2018 GOE Gen(ret) William Shelton (USAF) Introduction Video
I added a video to a @YouTube playlist https://t.co/eY4ZOx5J5B 2018 GOE General Lori Robinson (USAF) Introduction Video
I added a video to a @YouTube playlist https://t.co/L3kZ7mSTTw 2018 GOE Gen(ret) Charles Holland (USAF) Introduction Video
I added a video to a @YouTube playlist https://t.co/zfLLiX06pn 2018 GOE Dr Guion Bluford, Col(ret) (USAF) Introduction Video
I added a video to a @YouTube playlist https://t.co/OATqBrmXD0 2018 GOE CW5(ret) Tabron (USA) Introduction Video
I added a video to a @YouTube playlist https://t.co/zzeNYw0iLm 2018 GOE Col(ret) Ken Cordier Introduction Video
I added a video to a @YouTube playlist https://t.co/elyOP4hqKC 2018 GOE Col(ret) Michael D'Argenio Introduction Video
I added a video to a @YouTube playlist https://t.co/merSVoiMC2 2018 GOE CMSgt(ret) Calvin Markham Introduction Video
@GovernorKayIvey signed a bill benefiting military spouses here at Maxwell. Follow the link to our website to learn… https://t.co/5A7zTBuaxW
Air University's hosted the 65th annual National Security Forum. Follow the link to our website to learn more about… https://t.co/MRvgBSTX3K
Due to a major vehicle accident in the outbound lane, the Day Street Gate will be closed for the remainder of today… https://t.co/phXygGB4wm
I added a video to a @YouTube playlist https://t.co/azEGC06C1W 42d ABW History Video
I added a video to a @YouTube playlist https://t.co/okSfnYD5FZ ACSC AY18 Gathering of Eagles Selection Video
The EFMP Town Hall and Information Fair is tomorrow! https://t.co/j9X9IO3H9b
I added a video to a @YouTube playlist https://t.co/5McasEf77g Browse Library Shelves Online
I added a video to a @YouTube playlist https://t.co/XA7vkwHOtY Searching the Catalog
Day street gate on Maxwell AFB is now open.
Gate Closure: The Day St. Gate on Maxwell AFB is Closed Until Further Notice due to bridge icing.