We mourn the loss and offer condolences to the family of Ryan Brown: Hammond teen who underwent two heart transplants dies

Ryan Brown, the Hammond teen who courageously continued his schooling despite the rigors of two heart transplants, died Wednesday at Franciscan St. Margaret Health in Hammond, a hospital spokesman confirmed.


Brown, 18, underwent his second heart transplant May 15 at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

Teachers and staff at Gary’s 21st Century Charter School worked with Brown to help him catch up with his school work. He was on track to graduate next year with college credits.

The Post-Tribune chronicled Brown’s story on July 19.

In this July 15 photo, Tasha Jetson holds an autographed photo from Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo while Ryan Brown discusses talking with the coach via the phone and offering him player advice. (Jim Karczewski / Post-Tribune)

“Ryan fought hard to do the simple things most of us take for granted,” said Principal Anthony Cherry. “He really wanted to play football and rough house like most boys do, but he couldn’t because of the fragile nature of his heart.”

Cherry said Brown served as an inspiration to his fellow students and teachers.

“He made the children around him more grateful because he openly shared his trials and often chastened them for not living life to the fullest,” said Cherry. “Ryan was a great kid and will be sorely missed.”

Teacher Melissa Culbertson said Brown changed her life for the better.

“It is every teacher’s dream to see their kids walk across the stage at graduation, and I find myself today unable to fathom the idea of Ryan not being there. Ryan was a fighter — we can all attest to that. What Ryan wanted was very simple: to live, to love, and to learn. He fought for each day he got, and I am proud and grateful to be able to say that I knew him,” she said.

Ryan Brown hoped to receive an associate’s degree from Ivy Tech next year and then study biomedical engineering at Purdue University.

Born premature with a congenital heart defect, Brown underwent his first heart transplant in 2010 at age 12.

“God gave me a jacked­up heart to show people that you can have the worst medical symptoms, the worst medical life, the worst outlook, the worst experiences, but the thing that stops you from being great is yourself,” Brown said.

Funeral arrangements weren’t immediately known on Thursday.