Editor's Note: 'Empowering Lives: Stories from Our Colorado' are stories about the challenges the staff at Colorado's renowned Craig Hospital help people overcome every day thanks to the generosity of people like you. The six-week series will culminate in a 'Day of Donation' on Monday, April 8. To learn more about how you can help, visit the 'Empowering Lives: Day of Donation' page to learn more.
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – On Colorado’s mountain bike trails, Danny Soller is known for being aggressive. In fact, he has his nickname, Danimal, tattooed on his arm.
Having grown up in Breckenridge, Danny moved to the Grand Junction area because he wanted to be closer to “a bunch of gnarly terrain that owns your skills.”
Last October, that quest for adventure took Danny and his buddy Joel to Crested Butte on the closing day of the summer season. It was near the end of the day when they took a jump not knowing that a tree had fallen in the path. Danny hit it straight on with his chest.
“I remember I was laying there — I knew something was wrong,” Danny said. “I couldn’t feel legs, but I could move my arms and my neck and stuff felt okay.”
Whitney Hughes said she remembers the moment doctors told her and Danny’s family that her boyfriend was paralyzed.
“When he said that, I fell with emotion, I just collapsed,” she said. “Not because of the injury or what was going to come but how this was going to affect him and his spirit because he is so active.”
Six months later, Danny still has that spirit. Danny and Whitney now live in his parents' house which was made accessible for his wheelchair – something that doesn’t happen cheaply.
“Everything in this whole process costs money,” Danny said.
The Craig Foundation worked with the family on planning the renovations and even helped with some of the costs.
“There’s enough going on with injuries like this, so many changes to life, it’s awesome for Craig to have a foundation, to have funds available to cover things that would usually be an afterthought,” Danny said.
The Craig Foundation also helped cover the cost of housing and food when Whitney and her son would travel to Denver to visit Danny and learn what they needed to know to help him when he returned home.
“Craig makes you feel comfortable. Craig makes you feel at home,” she said. “Craig makes you not be fearful.”
Six months after his accident, Danny is already back on the bike trails in Grand Junction. He has no plans to give up living his life of adventure.
“It’s very much spiritual. Very much a give and a take,” he said. “The machine enables you to do a lot of things, but the more you put in to it the more you get out of it.”
Many of the programs at Craig Hospital are not covered by insurance. It’s generous people and organizations who make the programs possible. Denver7 & the Craig Foundation are teaming up for 'Empowering Lives: Day of Donation' on Monday, April 8. Click here to learn more about the programs offered at Craig and how you can donate right now.