"If I did not have my Apple Watch, I would not be alive right now," Ryan McConnaughey tells PEOPLE of the accident in April that changed his life.
The 23-year-old Californian was mountain biking in San Diego County when he flew over his handlebars and landed headfirst into the ground.
"I was coming up over this hill, caught some air, and then it just kind of booted me forward over the handlebars," recalls McConnaughey.
"I instantly couldn't move anything from my neck down," he continues. "And I was by myself, literally in the middle of nowhere, so if I were to yell or anything, nobody would find me."
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McConnaughey knew he needed to receive urgent medical attention — and that his life would depend on it. The only person who knew his approximate location was his friend, Peter, who had been riding with him earlier that day.
As McConnaughey watched the sun set over the horizon, unable to move his legs or arms to reach the phone in his backpack, he called out to his Apple Watch and asked the voice assistant, Siri, to call Peter. Siri responded and connected him to Peter over speakerphone.
Courtesy Ryan McConnaughey
"I didn't know what to expect. It was a life or death situation," he says. "My cell phone was in my backpack, which was on my back, and I could not… There was no way I could have gotten to that. There's no way."
Peter located McConnaughey a short time later, and emergency services arrived not long after. Before their arrival, he also made a call to his girlfriend, Lauren Housh.
"Lauren, I'm so sorry, babe," he said in an emotional voice message. "I fell mountain biking, and I'm by myself, and I'm paralyzed from the neck down… I'm calling you from my Apple Watch because I can't move."
"I love you so much, babe. I just love you more than anything, and I'm not in pain at all. I want you to know that," McConnaughey added.
Housh later shared the voicemail to TikTok, where it's been viewed millions of times.
McConnaughey was airlifted to a local hospital and has since undergone numerous surgeries to relieve pressure on his spine and stabilize his vertebrae.
Four months after the accident, he returned to San Diego and has since regained some movement in his arms. He still cannot move anything below his chest, but remains hopeful that he'll continue to see improvement over the next two years.
Lauren created a donation campaign to raise funds to help in McConnaughey's recovery and has since raised nearly $40,000.
"The support that I've gained is just…" McConnaughey says before pausing. "Many of those donations came from people I've never even met before. I've just never seen this side of people before, so it's nice to be able to get this support from people I don't even know."
To this day, he still thinks about how he owes his survival to the tiny but powerful device that was on his wrist.
"I think about it all the time," he says.
"Nobody knew where I was," he adds. "There's no way I would have survived through the night."