‘Hope is real.’ This Texas man is using his struggle with a rare disease to help combat suicide
A patient who had reportedly beat pancreatic cancer shot himself inside a room at Baylor Scott and White All Saints Medical Center.
Ryan Deaton, 45, of Azle, was being treated at the hospital on April 3 when he was found dead about 4:05 a.m. His death was ruled a suicide, according to the Tarrant County medical examiner’s website.
Deaton’s niece, Shelby Huddleston, said her uncle’s death was totally unexpected and a surprise to everyone in their family.
The night before he died, Deaton asked his caretaker to bring an insulin pump that was packed in his hospital go-bag, Huddleston said. The go-bag also had a gun inside that the caretaker did not know about, Huddleston said. Deaton was licensed to carry a concealed weapon, she said.
Deaton was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2014, and at that time the cancer was growing rapidly and had intertwined with several vital organs, Huddleston said.
Multiple surgeries to remove the cancer were performed and despite the dire prediction of a 10 percent survival rate, Deaton was still alive after five years, Huddleston said.
“The doctors removed his pancreas, spleen, gallbladder, part of his stomach, part of both intestines and the hepatic portal vein,” Huddleston wrote in a Facebook post. “This vein delivers deoxygenated blood containing nutrients to the liver.”
Deaton was an inspiration to everyone who knew him, but due to the removal of almost half of his internal organs, he developed several secondary complications, Huddleston said.
Because of a loss of liver function, Deaton developed a condition called hepatic encephalopathy, Huddleston said. The damaged liver cannot remove toxins which build in the body and can affect nervous system function, according to MedlinePlus, the website for the National Library of Medicine.
Symptoms of hepatic encephalopathy can include confusion, short attention span, forgetfulness, mood swings, personality changes anxiety and inappropriate behavior, according to the American Liver Foundation. People with the condition may be confused about who or where they are and may not be aware of what they are doing, Huddleston said. She believes Deaton shot himself while in a disoriented state.
“It was a freak accident that no one saw coming,” Huddleston said. “He had very strong will to live. He was cancer free. They had removed all the cancer with the procedures. He had already done his battle with the cancer. As a result of having to remove so many organs, there were so many other issues. The pancreatic cancer was not the issue because he had already fought that battle.”
She said Deaton had been looking forward to brighter days. Deaton was approved for a series of transplant operations at a medical facility in Nebraska, Huddleston said. A group of friends and family had rallied around him and arranged for a plane to be on standby so whenever an opportunity for a viable transplant arose, Deaton could take advantage of it, Huddleston said.
“He was very excited to have this opportunity in Nebraska to receive the organ transplants he needed to stay alive,” Huddleston said. “There was a light at the end of the tunnel. We were almost through with this.”
“Ryan was a fighter. He fought for every day that he had on this Earth,” she wrote on Facebook.” ... Ryan was preparing to start the next chapter of his life as a transplant recipient. He loved his friends and family and was looking forward to spending a long and happy life with them.”
According to Anica Lamkin, a representative with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, a national advocacy group that provides support and resources for people facing this illness, patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer suffer from depression at rates higher than other cancer patients.
Hepatic encephalopathy is not common among pancreatic cancer sufferers, but “any pancreatic cancer patient can develop conditions that are not related to the pancreatic cancer,” Lamkin said. “There are so many issues that could be present with patients with a pancreatic cancer diagnosis.”
Baylor Scott and White officials declined to comment on what they described earlier in the month as an ongoing investigation. The hospital did not respond to questions about its policies regarding guns on campus.
The hospital released the following statement after Deaton died:
“The safety and security of everyone on our campus is a top priority. We want to thank our staff and public safety department for quickly responding to an incident early this morning when a weapon was discharged on our campus. The self-inflicted injury was fatal, and we are working with those involved to provide emotional and psychological support. As this situation is currently under investigation, we are limited on the information that can be provided at this time.”