Ryan Mann lives on

Published 9:02 am Tuesday, June 23, 2009

WINDSOR – Even in death, Ryan Harris Mann gave of himself.

“It was a given. He helped everyone,” said his mother, Sue Thompson.

Just over a year ago (June 14, 2008), Mann was killed in a single-vehicle accident on Earlys Station Road. He was reportedly traveling home in the early hours of that Saturday morning and ran off the road and struck a ditch and culvert.

The report from the North Carolina Highway Patrol suggested fatigue as a contributing factor of the accident.

Mann was 21 years old at the time of the accident, something that caused a sense of déj vu for his mother, who lost her brother in an accident when he was 20 years old.

“I hope no one ever has to go through this,” Thompson said. “I fought my whole life for my boys. I raised them as a single mother and to have lost one of them has been hard to bear.”

During his short life on earth, however, Mann was a giver. He was involved in the Children’s Miracle Network, Relay for Life and many other opportunities to give back to his community.

Another way Mann decided to give back was in giving blood.

“He got me into giving blood,” said Thompson. “He took me the first time and I still give when I have a chance because of him.”

One way Mann decided to give was by becoming an organ donor and that was due to his mother’s influence.

“When he was 16, I explained what being a donor was about,” she said. “He had an uncle who had kidney problems and because of that experience, he knew what it was all about.

“A lot of young kids don’t think about it and their parents don’t think about it,” Thompson continued. “I thought it was important.”

Because of that conversation, Mann became a donor and when it was clear he would not recover from the accident, his mother made sure Bertie Memorial Hospital knew of his status.

Thanks to his status as a donor, Mann donated his corneas, skin, bone marrow, heart valves and veins.

“He continued to give even afterwards,” his mother said.

Earlier this year, the North Carolina Eye Bank held a Memorial Tribute Service to those who had lost their lives, but had donated to the eye bank in their death.

Thompson said the Memorial Service was extremely important to her and made her feel like her son had contributed so much, even though he was no longer with her.

“It was wonderful because of what it showed me,” Thompson said. “I don’t know who the people are, but there are two people who have his corneas. It was an honor because people throughout North Carolina could see what my son did.”

The North Carolina Eye Bank honored Mann and all other donors during 2008 by having the tribute.

Thompson said it made her recall the kind of person her son was.

“I was and still am repeatedly told what a nice, polite and respectful young man he was,” Thompson said. “He was special and I miss him a lot.”

Mann worked at Food Lion in Windsor and Thompson said she was honored when all the surrounding stores sent personnel to Windsor to operate the store so the men and women who worked there could come to her son’s funeral.

While she remains sad, she knows that her son accomplished a lot while he was alive.

“During his short 21 years here on earth, he accomplished a lot,” she said. “He was bright, mature, responsible and self-motivated.”

Thompson encouraged others to become donors and said that if there was a tragedy such as her son’s, other people could have a better life because of the donor program.

“To know there is a person who had eye trouble who now can see and to have the North Carolina Eye Bank say thank you, that means so much,” Thompsons said.

For more information about the North Carolina Eye Bank, log on to www.nceyebank.org.