Ryan hopes to get back to work

Published 9:14 am Monday, July 20, 2015

DOING WHAT HE LOVES: Traffic Investigator Burt Ryan, left, directs traffic following a wreck at the intersection of Clay and Cherry streets in 2013.

DOING WHAT HE LOVES: Traffic Investigator Burt Ryan, left, directs traffic following a wreck at the intersection of Clay and Cherry streets in 2013.

Burt Ryan can’t wait to get back in uniform doing what he loves in the city that helped him realize his dream.

Earlier this summer Ryan was diagnosed with a rare type of blood cancer requiring frequent blood transfusions. Vicksburg police and firefighters and Warren County deputies held a blood drive last week though Mississippi Blood Services in his honor and collected 99 units of blood, Deputy Police Chief Bobby Stewart said.

“It was unbelievable. I couldn’t believe it when my wife told me. I can’t express it in words that there would be that many people who would do that. It was really touching,” Ryan said by phone from his home Saturday.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Three more blood drives are set in Ryan’s honor in the coming weeks, Stewart said.

“Due the outstanding turnout the Mississippi Blood Services has agreed to hold three more donation days for Officer Ryan, for those who were unable to donate,” he said.

The additional blood drives are set for noon to 6 p.m. July 28 and Aug. 4 at Walmart and 8 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Aug. 8 at the Elks Lodge on U.S. 61 South.

Ryan was diagnosed with mantle cell lymphoma, a rare type of blood cancer effecting fewer than 15,000 Americans. He’s spent weeks in the hospital and was heading back Monday morning. The condition is difficult to treat and the prognosis is typically dire, but that’s not discouraging Ryan, who seemed in good sprits over the weekend.

“They’ll check me into the hospital for another week or two for around the clock chemotherapy,” Ryan said.

After all the chemotherapy, blood transfusions and the possibility of a bone marrow transplant, Ryan’s hoping he can get back to work.

“I’m sitting here reading books and watching TV, bored stiff,” he said.

Ryan, 57, went into law enforcement relatively late in life. He majored in criminal justice at the University of Southern Mississippi but “never wound up doing anything with it.” Instead, he worked for more than 20 years as service manager at a number of car dealerships in Jackson.

After a full career in the auto business, Ryan needed a change of pace. He became a detention officer in a Jackson suburb before being hired in November 2005 at VPD, the department that sent him to the police academy.

“I was the oldest one in my class at the academy,” Ryan said. “I’m glad I did it. I love it.”

For almost 10 years, Ryan’s worked in traffic and patrol.

“He’s a seasoned officer. He’s a compassionate officer. He put the citizens of Vicksburg before himself,” Chief Walter Armstrong said.

Several weeks ago when Ryan became ill, he didn’t want to leave the job he loved. He was worn down all the time, but finally he realized something was wrong and it was time to see a doctor.

“I put it off as getting old. I’ve never been one of those who unless I’m on my deathbed, go to the doctor and complain.” Ryan said.

The doctor ran blood tests and when the results came in, the physician told him to come in immediately because “my blood levels weren’t where any living person’s should be,” Ryan said.

The same day, Ryan was set to go back to the doctor, his condition became so severe that he was rushed to the emergency room.

“River Region putty much saved my life,” Ryan said.