Service today for teen who died from asthma | RecordCourier.com
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Service today for teen who died from asthma

by Sheila Gardner

After school today, Ryan Sean O’Sullivan’s friends will gather at the Calvary Chapel to say good-bye to the 15-year-old who died doing what he loved best – skateboarding.

The Douglas High School sophomore collapsed and died Friday night of complications from asthma at the home of friends in the Foothill area.

“He died doing exactly what he loved doing the most,” said Ryan’s mother, Patty O’Sullivan.

Ryan, his older brother Dan, and several of their friends were skateboarding Friday evening. Dan said that Ryan hurt his ankle and sat down, then slumped to the ground. Dan told his mother that Ryan tried to talk, but he couldn’t breathe and slipped into unconsciousness.

Paramedics spent nearly an hour trying to revive Ryan at the residence and on the way to Carson Valley Medical Center.

“The asthma attack was so fast and so extreme, the doctors told us even if Ryan had collapsed on the hospital steps, there was nothing else to be done to save him,” Patty O’Sullivan said.

Ryan, first diagnosed with asthma at age 2, suffered a similar attack two years ago when his heart stopped for three minutes before he was revived. Patty and John O’Sullivan said that emergency served as a wakeup call for the family.

“So much prepared us for this,” she said. “We had another year and half with Ryan. I made an effort to spend extra time with him. I let him do what he wanted, little things, like skip school one day last year to go snowboarding.”

“We learned that time is a valuable commodity with our children. They need to be cherished,” John O’Sullivan said.

The O’Sullivans last saw Ryan as he and his brother were on their way to skateboard with friends, an activity they pursued nearly every night.

“We were coming home from dinner and we saw the boys backing out of the driveway. Dan was driving and Ryan banged on the window and made a funny face at me. That’s the last time I saw him,” she said.

O’Sullivan said she was in bed when the call came after 9 p.m. that Ryan had collapsed and wasn’t breathing.

“The adults who were with him told us they’d called 911 and asked what else they could do. It just means so much to me that they were there with him when he died,” she said. “The kids felt so helpless. It was hard on everybody. The paramedics worked on him for 20 minutes. Those nine boys just stood there and prayed.”

A memorial service will be held at 3:30 p.m. today at Calvary Chapel in the Gardnerville Ranchos, a church whose members welcomed skateboarders.

“Pastor (Dan) Steen has been wonderful to the kids,” said Patty O’Sullivan. “Sometimes he told them they couldn’t skate until after they came in and had drinks and cookies.”

The service will be held after school so Ryan’s friends can attend along with the eclectic mix of people he attracted as he worked to make a community skatepark a reality: younger kids who looked up to him, county officials, cops and Sheriff Ron Pierini.

“One of the things our department has been trying to assist with is the skateboarding issue,” Pierini said Monday. “I’ve gotten to know the O’Sullivan family pretty well. I found out what a great family they are. They are very closeknit and did a lot of things together. Ryan had a lot going for him. He was very polite and a very good communicator. He was a great asset to our community. He had the attributes to be a real leader.”

Pierini said Ryan’s death gives new importance to creating a skatepark for the community’s youth.

“We’ve got to go forward. We’re talking to kids to see how much they truly want it. The community needs to pull together so his death isn’t for naught,” Pierini said.

n Ryan’s passion. Creating a skatepark was Ryan’s passion, his parents said. He and his friends worked for years toward changing the perception that skaters are just young troublemakers who wear baggy pants and have been chased out of every parking lot in town.

A memorial skate jam will be held Saturday from 11 a.m to 7 p.m. in the parking lot of the Calvary Chapel, 1101 Dresslerville Road, Gardnerville Ranchos.

Donations may be made to the Ryan Sean O’Sullivan Skateboard Park fund at U.S. Bank, Gardnerville branch, account no. 153750314012.

Ryan’s father said he was grateful to the people who tried to save Ryan’s life Friday and others for the outpouring of sympathy and help.

“It just makes us realize why we moved to a small community,” John O’Sullivan said. “Everybody has been amazing. We didn’t realize the scope of the people in this community he touched.”

Patty O’Sullivan said since news of her son’s death spread over the weekend, his friends congregated at their Topaz Ranch Estates home and at the little skate shop that Dan and Ryan opened 18 months ago in Gardnerville.

“One boy told me he had no idea asthma could be so bad,” she said. “He has asthma and said he was going to quit smoking.

“If Ryan’s death can save one life, that’s a sacrifice we’re willing to make,” she said. “We want people to know what Ryan died of. He didn’t kill himself, he was adamant against drugs and alcohol. He died of an asthma attack.”

n A better place. The O’Sullivans said their faith leads them to believe that Ryan is in a better place.

“We’re Christians and we believe we all have a destiny – Ryan filled his in 15 years and three months. We hope we can fulfill our destiny, we’ve been around a lot longer,” Patty O’Sullivan said.

The death last week of a woman in their Topaz Ranch Estates neighborhood had prompted Patty O’Sullivan to talk about the afterlife with her 7-year-old daughter, Shannon.

“We talked about heaven and what it might look like. The way we feel right now is that we don’t like what’s happened. We’re sad and grieving when we think of all the things he’s going to miss, but we’re happy for him. We’re jealous that he gets to see all that in heaven. Someday we’ll understand.

“We know through God that Ryan’s death will touch a lot of people. We have hope and assurance because of our faith that Ryan is in a better place and will be there to greet us when we go,” she said.