Warning: This story contains graphic details.
Ryan John lives a normal life. The 24-year-old Prince Albert man spends most of his summers on his motorcycle, even making custom biker vests in the off-season.
Just a few years ago, though, he wasn’t sure if he’d ever return to his passion.
On Oct. 14, 2020, John was the victim of an unprovoked stabbing in the lobby of the city’s Boston Pizza. Around 10 p.m., while John was waiting for his food, 19-year-old Trent Fox “ran in there full speed” and plunged a four-inch hunting knife into his head behind his left ear.
“I took a step back, wondering what’s going on. Did he punch me? Did he slap me, or what? What did he hit me with?” he recalled.
“I’d seen this big flash of white light with blue streams in every direction.”
John said Fox picked him up by his vest and stabbed him a second time on the left side of his jaw.
“I heard like a bone cracking, snapping sound and then my jaw tilted to one side, and that one hurt even more. Now I’ve got two holes in my head that are spraying blood.”
He said police caught Fox in the parking lot. Meanwhile, paramedics took him to the Victoria Hospital, and that’s when he started feeling dizzy and nauseous.
“The closer we got to the hospital, the more this feeling of peace came over me where I felt like everything was okay. But I knew in the back of my mind somewhere that this was not okay. I knew what happened,” he said.
“I could’ve died on the spot.”
While at the hospital, he was put into a medically-induced coma to stop his brain from swelling. John’s mother, Michelle Hunt, said she rushed to the hospital around 11:30 that night.
“I had seen my son laying on the gurney. He was covered in blood,” she said. “(The nurse) says to me ‘I tried to clean him up before you got here.’ And then I (asked) the doctor, ‘Is he going to live?’”
The doctor told Hunt to prepare for the worst.
STARS transported John to Saskatoon’s Royal University Hospital with life-threatening injuries.
Hunt said John had been in the coma for a week before the doctor told her they had hit a wall. She told them to go ahead with an exploratory surgery to see where the bleeding was coming from, rather than taking him off of life support.
The surgery was successful – something she credits to continued prayers.
“Whenever something would arise, like his temperature was so high and they couldn’t get his temperature down, so I’d go on Facebook and ask for prayers, and all of the sudden his temperature would start to come down. Then another time, his blood pressure was too high, so I asked for prayers for that and then that slowly went down, too,” she said.
The doctor told Hunt that her son likely would have sight and mobility issues.
“I said ‘I’ll be his eyes; I’ll be his mobility,’” she said.
“When he woke up, he had everything. He could walk; he could see; he could talk. The first thing I said to him was ‘Do you know who I am?’ and he says ‘Yeah, mom, I know who you are.’ I started crying.”
Coming out of the 13-day coma, John “felt the worst kind of pain you could think of.” It was like the sting of hitting your funny bone – times a hundred – in his head and trinkling down his spine, he explained.
The first day, John was able to walk 10 steps to the bathroom, but that was a “real struggle.” A few days later, he could walk four or five laps around his hospital ward and, within a week, he reached 12 laps.
“It’s true that I was in a lot of pain, but feeling sorry for myself wasn’t going to do anything. I knew that if I forgave and if I stayed positive and eat right and exercise, that that was going to push me further to getting out of the hospital,” said John.
John also had a craniectomy, a surgery to remove a portion of his skull. Once the swelling had gone down, he had that portion replaced in another surgery.
He walked out of the hospital on Dec. 4, less than two months after the attack. He’s writing a book about his near-death experience, with himself and family members narrating an audio version.
Fox was initially charged with attempted murder, but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of aggravated assault. In July 2021, he was sentenced to four years in prison.
Although John had hard feelings towards his attacker at first, he’s now reached a place of forgiveness. He even wants to meet with Fox through a victim services program.
“I do not have any anger towards him because I know that he has a very rough life and I know what led him to do that. For me, I come from a family where I’m very well supported,” he said.
“I found my purpose in life of why everything happened to me,” said John. “I wouldn’t change a thing.”
In a police statement, Fox said he was intoxicated and hitchhiked from North Battleford to Prince Albert, claiming he didn’t remember the stabbing.
He told court that he was a member of the Westside Outlaws gang. John said he repeatedly called him a “snitch” during the stabbing.
John’s ultimate goal was to be released from hospital by springtime so that he could ride his motorcycle. SGI gave him back both his drivers and motorcycle license.
When his family all hopped on their bikes for the first time since John’s recovery, they were all in tears.
“I was living my dream, and my dream was very simple,” he said.
“I just wanted to get back on my bike.”