The Saunders family at the inquest into Ryan’s death.
The Saunders family at the inquest into Ryan’s death.

Ryan leaves his lasting legacy

THE past four years have seen Donna and Terry Saunders relive the most painful week of their lives time and again.

Even now when Mr Saunders sees a child around Ryan's age wearing a Queensland State of Origin jersey, the football fan sheds a tear remembering his lost son.

But with the coronial findings into their son Ryan's tragic death handed down last week, Mr and Mrs Saunders can now look toward the future with some comfort knowing that hopefully no other parent should have to endure the heart wrenching wait for their child to get lifesaving treatment.

"I feel very tried, drained... it's been a long four years," Mr Saunders said.

"We've got pretty much what we wanted, and that was for it never to happen again."

He said the greatest tribute to two-year-old Ryan would be for the fatal misdiagnosis and inadequate treatment to never be repeated because no parent should ever have to endure the death of their child.

Sitting in the public gallery listening to four days of emotional testimony by staff responsible for their son's care at the Rockhampton Base Hospital from September 24, 2007, took a toll on the Saunders.

But Mr Saunders said it was worth it to look at the man, Dr Peter Roper, who repeatedly told the inquest he could not hear Ryan crying while at the paediatric ward.

"Where we were sitting was right behind the barrister so there was no way he couldn't have seen us," Mr Saunders said.

"There are some great men and women in the hospital system, and that just makes me wonder what he (Dr Roper) was thinking (when Ryan was in hospital).

"I've really got no idea what was in his head."

State Coroner Michael Barnes was critical of the care given to Ryan at the Rockhampton Base Hospital when he delivered his findings on Friday, which Mrs Saunders said was to be expected (see article below).

"There had already been the (Health Quality Complaints Commission) so we already knew what to expect," she said.

"It was encouraging how the coroner made some comments about the care Ryan received, and I am happy that he came to that conclusion.

"It's been a long time coming."

Although little comfort to the grieving parents, Ryan's legacy will continue to thrive in the Central Highlands through the charity organisation established in his name, with a little help from the toddler's favourite Sesame Street character, Elmo.

The website, launched today, welcomes donations which go toward the Capricorn Helicopter Rescue Service, Royal Flying Doctors Service, Qld Institute of Medical Research, and the Emerald Hospital.

In particular, it seeks to raise medical research funds into Strep A, the infection that ultimately killed Ryan.

"We can't, from here, go and put Ryan out of our minds," Mrs Saunders said.

"We still talk and have a laugh about Ryan, and I know Jamie (sister) misses him all the time.

"She's such a bright and bubbly girl. She misses him terribly."

Ryan's family is now looking to the future, comforted by the fact measures have been taken to ensure the tragic series of events are never repeated.

"We appreciate the support of everyone in town. It's encouraging to know everyone is behind us," Mrs Saunders said.

"Ryan moved so many people, and I know we can never get him back but hopefully he can change things for the better," Mr Saunders said.

"I can't thank people enough, both friends and strangers, for their support through everything. It has been overwhelming."

Visit to donate, and for more information on the work the foundation is doing in the Central Highlands.

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