Lewisburg field hockey, softball headliner Ryan Brouse heroically overcomes car crash injuries, traumatic brain injury to triumph in her athletic pursuits

In some ancient Asian cultures, a Green Dragon is a symbol of growth, transformation and renewal.


As a member of two Lewisburg High School Green Dragon athletic teams for the past three-plus years, Ryan Brouse has worn the colors of the Green Dragon on her uniforms. She played softball for her first three seasons and field hockey in her sophomore, junior and senior years.


The possibility of Ryan playing sports again was the last thing on the mind of Angie and Chris Brouse as they kissed goodbye to Ryan, the younger of two daughters and just 14-years old at the time, as medical personnel rushed her toward surgery with life-threatening injuries sustained in a car accident on August 30, 2020.


Just a few days before she began ninth grade in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ryan Brouse was with friends in the back seat of a car moving along Pheasant Ridge Road in Lewisburg. The car crashed. Ryan remembers little to nothing of the day, which might be a good thing.


Ryan’s injuries were frightening: a lacerated liver, a bilateral lung contusion, a fractured pelvis and a mild-to-moderate traumatic brain injury. A Life Flight helicopter took her to Janet Weis Children’s Hospital Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, where her mother Angie Brouse coincidentally works as a regional director of the Central West Geisinger Health Foundation.


Geisinger was the only option because Ryan was literally minutes from not surviving the accident; trauma centers in Hershey and Philadelphia were too far away from Lewisburg.


“We’re so happy that we had such a high-level institution in our backyard,” Angie said.


Ryan Brouse not only recovered but recovered well. In 10th grade, she was on a Green Dragons team that reached the PIAA Class 3A state final in softball in 2022.


This past Fall, she was a PFHCA all-state first teamer and scored both goals for the Green Dragons in a 2-1 overtime win over Susquenita in the PIAA Class A quarterfinals. She has not yet chosen a college but wants to study business.


Ryan will play for Team Harrisburg in next weekend’s inaugural PA Field Hockey Senior Cup, hosted by Female Athlete News and its sponsors. 


Buy tickets / Join the guestlist – PA Field Hockey Senior Cup – Lower Dauphin Middle School Sports Complex, Sat Mar 23, 2024 8:00 AM – Sun Mar 24, 2024 4:00 PM (tickettailor.com)


Angie Brouse, whose other daughter Ellie is three years older than Ryan, recalls thinking remarkably clearly on the day of the accident, all things considered.


“When her father and I arrived (at the scene of the accident), it was pretty apparent that they were thinking that [Ryan] may not make it,” Angie said. “As they were getting her on to Life Flight (a Geisinger medical helicopter), they were telling us if we needed to kiss her goodbye. It was really touch and go. Minutes made all of the difference between life and death. It was definitely dire arriving at the hospital.”


“Because of the traumatic brain injury, I don’t remember that night,” Ryan Brouse said. “I remember bits and pieces, but I don’t remember the accident. When I woke up, I had no idea how bad it was. I woke up in the hospital and I said to my parents, ‘What’s the big deal?’ I didn’t even know what happened. When the doctors and parents explained to me, I kind of realized how bad it was. Later on, we spoke to the EMTs that were there. They gave us their perspective, too.”


The surgery took less than two hours. Soon Ryan was consuming two of her favorites – yogurt and smoothies. Her hospital stay was over in less than two weeks.


She missed her freshman field hockey season but returned to school by the second marking period, thanks to a teacher who came to her house with her schoolwork. Although cleared but not completely 100 percent, she returned to sports for freshman softball in the Spring of 2021.


The list of those who helped her get there is endless. The William Cameron Engine Company of Lewisburg was the first responder; the EMTs at the scene helped stabilize her for the journey to Geisinger.


One of those EMTs was Ava Warfel, a Bucknell University student whom the Brouses call their “angel paramedic”. Warfel, an IRONMAN athlete, was the only paramedic on duty that evening. Warfel helped stabilize Ryan and the two still communicate.


Angie Brouse credits Lewisburg Fire Chief James Blount for emotional support during the scene. Ryan developed a relationship with Blount, too, so much so that she presented him with the District 4 softball gold medal that she won in 2022.

*Ryan Brouse is pictured with Lewisburg Fire Chief James Blount, photo: submitted


At Geisinger, the doctors never stopped helping. Dr. Ronald Wong, M.D., head of the Pediatric Care Unit, was the trauma surgeon on duty. Dr. Sarah Alandel came to watch Ryan play in the state final. Dr. Mark Massak and Dr. Saif Ahmed are the interventional radiologists who stopped the bleeding in her liver, ultimately saving her life.


The two surgery residents, Dr. Dennis Fisher and Dr. Donald Henderson, visited her room every day. Dr. Frank Maffei, head of pediatrics at Janet Weis, explained many of the details to the Brouses and personally removed her ventilator when it was time because he knew how scared and nervous we were so he said “I will do it personally,” according to Angie Brouse.


The nurses “were beyond amazing,” Angie Brouse said. “We can’t say enough about the amazing nursing care she received.”


Along the road to recovery, Ryan was featured in an ad campaign for Geisinger and met many whom she may or may not have inspired. She received a standing ovation as a speaker at the Children’s Hospital fundraising Gala in September 2022.


And in perhaps a sign that a certain mythical Green Dragon may have been paying attention to this story, she played in her first high school field hockey game on Aug. 30, 2021 – one year to the date after the accident.


Growth, transformation, and renewal are all part of this story.


“It was serendipitous, I guess,” Angie Brouse said. “Knowing her life was saved because we have those resources.”


“[The accident] definitely changed me for the better,” Ryan said. “It was hard at first, but it kind of gave me a lot of new opportunities. I was able to work with the hospital a little bit. I filmed a commercial with them. I was able to speak at some events which I thought was really cool. I kind of viewed it as ‘That happened, and I was able to build my way back from it’. Whatever happens to me now, I’ll be able to look back and know that I made it through something that was that hard. I can do hard things because I went through.


“I hope I have (inspired some). A lot of athletes struggle with injuries no matter how big or small, even if it’s just something like shin splints. Hopefully, I was able to help some people.”


Brouse is one of three Lewisburg seniors on team Harrisburg. Whitney Berge, daughter of Green Dragons head coach Tonya Berge, and Avery Mast are the others. Tonya Berge noted that Ryan Brouse provided a level of leadership on this year’s state semifinalist that one would expect of a senior.


Brouse is not one to play the injury card when leading. She leads by example.


“She’s a good role model simply because she’s determined and tenacious,” Tonya Berge said. “She hustles and has a good work ethic. She has all the characteristics of what you would expect from a role model.”


Ryan Brouse has shown those around her the power of growth, transformation and renewal.


“The girl [Ryan] couldn’t walk for weeks,” Angie Brouse said. “She was on crutches. She had pelvic pain for over a year. She had one obstacle after the other following the accident, but she pushed herself as far as she could. She goes to the gym twice a day. She would do a full day of school, a full day of field hockey practice and then go to the gym for another hour and a half. She’s probably the strongest kid I’ve seen on or off the field. A lot of people might have given up or used it as an excuse. She just pushed herself harder.”


When she’s not working on sports and self-improvement, she enjoys spending time at a “Cat Café”, The Scratching Post, in Lewisburg. Her mother Angie is the co-owner.


The Brouses also use their home as a foster home for cats and dogs, meaning Ryan is never far from emotional support from humans and animals.


“Actually, I’m kind of a simple, routine person,” Ryan Brouse said. “Go to school, field hockey, go to the gym, come home, go to bed.”


The matter of her brain injury has caused some to be cautious around her. That’s not what she wants. She wants to be like everyone else, yet a better version of herself.


“I had a lot of issues with my head since I had a traumatic brain injury,” Ryan said. “In field hockey, there’s always a chance of getting hit, which was something we had to think about. At first when I came back, coaches were kind of scared to be hard on me. I think they were worried that I was hurting and didn’t want to say anything about it. I had an indoor coach who didn’t know what happened. She just kind of treated me like a normal player. Once she found out, she was sorry that she was too hard on me. That was kind of what I wanted. I wanted to get back and be better than I was before.”


Growth, transformation, and renewal: Just what the original, mythical Green Dragon planned.


Top Photo: Ryan Brouse plays defense for the Lewisburg Green Dragons. Photographer: Kevin Callison. Tim Shoemaker is a freelance writer. 

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