SPOTLIGHTS ON INDIVIDUALS WITH SPINAL CORD INJURIES: DR. DAN, C5 QUADRIPLEGIC
The ROLLIN’ RNs™ are excited to introduce a new series: Spotlights on Individuals with Spinal Cord Injuries and their progress since injury and rehab. We wish to focus on achievements and triumphs since that significant day that changed their lives forever.
I met Dr. Dan in 2000 when I was a Registered Nurse at the local community hospital. He was a pediatrician in the Newborn Nursery and I was the RN Assistant Nurse Manager of the Labor/Delivery, Nursery, and Postpartum Department. I received a phone call in 2011, the evening of Dr. Dan’s spinal cord injury to notify me of his condition. We are so very pleased to have Dr. Dan as the first in The Rollin’ RNs™ ™ Spotlight on Persons with Spinal Cord Injuries. (Patty)
Kindly introduce yourself with a brief history:
I am a pediatrician in Virginia. Moving here in 1997, I have been in general practice ever since then. Life has been full and busy. My wife and I have 2 sons and she is a professor in the music department at the local college and has a busy performing schedule, as well. Both of us are from Virginia. We have loved living in the area and raising our family here. Life seemed to be charging along with only a few bumps in the road along the way. We appeared to be in control of a charmed life. Little did we know how quickly, randomly, and definitively life can change.
Dr. Dan and his wife, Susan
Explain your level of SCI, when and how it occurred:
In the fall of 2011, on a quick trip to the North Carolina beaches, I was boogie boarding in the ocean and one fateful ride on a wave slammed me into the bottom, hyper-extended my neck, and left me motionless and unable to move, floating in the surf. I was dragged out of the waves, helicoptered to a nearby hospital, and began my life as a person with a spinal cord injury (SCI). The level of my injury is C5. At first, I only had a shoulder shrug and could move my left toes a few millimeters. Bladder and bowel function were gone. I could not feed myself. After my C3-C5 fusion the first night in the ICU, I was left to contemplate the seemingly complete upheaval of my life. However, in the landscape of SCI, I was very lucky. My injury was incomplete, and I began to improve. I spent about 4 months in inpatient rehab; by the end of that time, I was walking with a cane, had regained bladder and bowel function (for the most part), and was, amazingly, able to slowly return to work 5 months after my injury. I still had and have significant spasticity, poor balance, and limited sensation; but I am keenly aware of how lucky I am.
2014, Dr. Dan playing in Handel's Messiah
Please give the readers a glimpse into your life since becoming SCI:
In spite of being a lucky incomplete SCI, my life is quite different than it had been. I take several medications, Baclofen, Gabapentin, and Coumadin. Falls are a constant risk, and I do fall with some regularity. I still use a cane most of the time. If I’m in unfamiliar territory, or I need to be on my feet for longer periods of time, I use forearm crutches. I have to focus on every step that I take. Our nervous systems are a true miracle. When they are disrupted, you realize how intricate and seamless they are. I am very aware of how different I look moving around, people often wonder if I have Multiple Sclerosis.
Before my injury, I was a very physically active person. Bicycling was my passion, and I spent 8-10 hours a week riding, usually logging 5000 to 6000 miles a year. That focus on exercise has served me well with my SCI. I still put in 8 to 10 hours a week, but the things I do are different. Recumbent triking, yoga, personal training, and lots of stretching fill up each week. I feel that I have a duty to make the most of my incomplete injury and stay on top of it as much as I can.
Life can be challenging with a SCI, what motivated you to move forward and become the individual you are today:
I often feel that I have had 2 lives. The one before my injury, and, the one that began that day on the beach. It is just that different. And, it’s not all bad. I believe that I appreciate and am more grateful for each day, each person that I encounter, and the insight to have this awareness. I feel an obligation to work hard and do the most with what I now have in order to show to myself and others that suffering is part of life for all of us and that it is not to be swept away; by acknowledging it and trying to push forward, we have small victories every day. And, every human being has their own small “SCI’s”: illness, loss, depression, financial hardship, on and on. Suffering is inescapable. The gift of my SCI is that it showed this to me in a very concrete way and has allowed me to try to live a bit differently.
Dr. Dan triking with friends
What plans do you have for the future?:
This past summer, my wife and I, along with several other friends, went on a week-long bicycling trip to Nova Scotia, Canada. It was the first time I tried such a sustained physical endeavor since my injury. The trike served me well, and I was able to ride every day, covering over 250 miles that week. I hope that I can continue to do this type of travel and activity moving forward. I also want to find ways to give back as much as possible. The love and support that my community showed me and family after my injury truly was a miracle. I need to find ways to keep paying this forward.
Dr. Dan and his wife
Additionally, Dr. Dan is “Dancing with the Local Stars” in March 2019 benefiting Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Virginia and Literacy for Life. I lifted the following excerpt from Dr. Dan’s Facebook page:
“I had two good rehearsals for “Dancing with the Local Stars” this weekend. Who knew that dancing would be such great therapy for spasticity and poor balance? And, it's a lot of fun! And, it benefits two great charities! When I agreed to do this, I thought I might be sitting in a chair while my partner danced circles around me. No go on that idea, and it's actually working a little better than I would have thought.”
Thank you, Dan, for providing us with a glimpse into your life. Way to go and we’ll be sending good vibes your way for March.
It’s all good so keep on rolling.
Patty, RNC and Roberta, RN
The Rollin' RNs