Teen reunites with neurosurgeon who saved his life after traumatic brain injury

ZIONSVILLE, Ind. -- Nearly a year after falling from a vehicle and suffering a traumatic brain injury, a local athlete is reuniting with the neurosurgeon and ICU staff that saved his life. In just 10 months he's made a miraculous recovery.

On his own two feet, with his smile and personality back, Ryan Bardellini is a walking, talking miracle. Thanksgiving weekend 2017 everything changed the night he fell from a moving vehicle.

"I just remember her saying something's happened and then I heard ambulance sirens in the back," mom, Kimberly Bardellini said.

Ryan's fall resulted in a fracture that split the middle of his skull. The U.S. fencing association-rated fencer was left fighting for his life during his senior year of high school. His mother was told to prepare for the worse. His brain was swelling at an alarming rate. Ryan's neurosurgeon Dr. Charles Kulwin with Goodman Campbell Brain & Spine at St. Vincent Indianapolis gave it all he had.

"As a last resort we will take off a very large window of bone to allow the brain to just swell outward," Dr. Kulwin said.

And two days after the surgery to replace that bone is when they knew he would pull through when a once paralyzed Ryan changed the movie on his iPad.

"And I was just starting to stand up and then Ryan reached up stopped it, scrolled through the iPad and I started video taping it because it was so amazing and he scrolled through and he found a Bruce Willis movie and started that," Kimberly said.

Now he's back to fencing twice a week and shocking people everyday doing the things some thought were taken away in the fall.

"My mom told me that everybody expected me not to be able to speak french or be able to even speak anymore after so when I got out I was like I can speak french. She was like prove it. I just started talking," Ryan said.

Dr. Kulwin says Ryan's age and physical fitness truly helped his recovery.

"I've seen a lot of traumatic brain injuries and he's I'd say far and away the best outcome for this severe injury I've ever experienced, so I guess that's about as lucky as it gets," Dr. Kulwin said.

Ryan’s story of recovery will also be the focus to inspire other traumatic brain injury survivors at the upcoming Brain Bolt 5k taking place next weekend. Ryan is headed to Purdue to join the fencing team next Fall.