On his fifth birthday, Ryland’s mom shared a heartbreaking Instagram post, sharing that “his life wasn’t supposed to go past age four.”

Called a “warrior” by his mother who became a stranger to him after a car crash left him brain damaged, the little boy is slowly showing signs of progress and learning again how to smile.

Keep reading to learn more about this determined little boy!

On November 21, Kentucky’s Tiffany Owsley was driving home from the pediatric dentist, with her husband Joe and their two children, Maddix, now one, and Ryland or “Blaze,” now five.

The two kids were buckled up in the back, Maddix in his rear-facing child’s seat, and according to mom, Ryland, too, was strapped into his booster.

Ryland, who was watching videos on his father’s iPhone, was eagerly making plans for his December 5th birthday, telling his mom and dad “what he wanted for his birthday.”

“And then we wrecked,” Tiffany said in a clip she shared on social media. “It was pouring rain. We just went around a curve, lost traction of the vehicle and collided head on with another vehicle…it was a pretty high impact accident.”

The baby had a broken leg, Tiffany’s head “had to be stapled back together,” and Joe suffered a broken back.

Meanwhile, Ryland got the worst of it.

@tiff.lashae November 21,2023 at 9:36 a.m our nightmare began. I know my baby is going to make it out, its all in Gods hands. Hes fighting a severe axonal brain injury but we refuse to listen to what the doctors have to say we know who has the LAST say so🙏🏼. #tbi #traumaticbraininjury #severetraumaticbraininjury ♬ Almost Home – Craig Morgan & Jelly Roll

When emergency officials arrived at the scene, the little boy, who wasn’t breathing, sustained multiple brain injuries and a huge gash above his eye, which Tiffany says was caused from the impact of the phone hitting his fragile little head.

“[Ryland has] tearing all over the whole brain, like the whole nervous system is torn. The big cut over his eye is from my husband’s cell phone he was holding…”

She adds, “He sustained multiple skull fractures face fractures from that phone. That was the only answer for it. It was the phone because he didn’t bust his head. Nothing like that like, he didn’t hit [any] windows, nothing. The brain injuries we cannot say where that came from, I guess just maybe the severe the violent blow of the head from the phone or just shaking of your head.”

Tiffany – also mom to baby Patience, who died less than one month after she was born in April 2021 and Ryder, who has cerebral palsy – said in his earlier days of recovery, “we’re not sure that [Ryland] understood who me and his dad were.”

Sharing Ryland’s journey of recovery online, Tiffany received millions of messages with love and prayers.

Speaking of the life that’s still visible in his oftentimes vacant eyes, one netizen writes, “Those eyes are not empty…you can see that he understands..the brain is miraculous..I see so much hope.” A second shares, “can see everything in those beautiful baby eyes. He hears you, he sees you, he’s confused but I see him in those eyes.”

Meanwhile, some cybernauts suggest if Ryland was secured in a booster seat, he would have been safe.

Responding to critics who question her narrative of the seating situation, Tiffany clarifies, “[Ryland] was 100% buckled if he was not buckled, he would’ve been out the windshield, he would’ve been done. He was in the backseat buckled in his booster car seat, my nine-month-old was in his rear facing car seat.”

Begging users to stop spreading hate and doubting Ryland’s position in the car, the mom said the worst thing she’s had to overcome were the frequent calls, urging the family to come to his room because doctors “didn’t think he would make it through the night.”

Slow recovery

After spending one month at Kentucky Children’s Hospital, where he celebrated his 5th birthday on the same day he started breathing without support, Ryland was transferred to Cincinnati’s Children’s Hospital for rehabilitation.

Tiffany shares that his eyes are starting to connect with his surroundings and he “has to itch that healing abrasion above his eye… that’s purposeful.”

And he also learned how to smile again.

“He’s starting to really have good head control for [tree to five] mins at a time. We’re still working on it though [and] working on trunk control,” Tiffany shares, adding that Ryland is “catching himself, even standing with [physical therapy.”

She adds, “It seems like he’s really putting in the work now.”

Before he was released from rehab on February 21, Ryland had a speaking valve placed on his tracheotomy so he can communicate.

Spending the last night in hospital, Tiffany writes, “87 days post accident…Our journey is only getting started.