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Spinal Cord Injury Paralysis Resource Center

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Love Keeps Them Strong

Danny Paltjon, his wife, Jackie, and their son Danny

Danny Paltjon, his wife, Jackie, and their son Danny

By: Sonia Lima

Name: Danny Paltjon
Injury: C5, C6
Mechanism of injury: Collided with 3rd baseman
Date of Injury: May 1, 2003

Having been an athlete his whole life, Danny Paltjon, 34, didn't expect his injury to come from an activity that he loved.

While playing softball on May 1, 2003, Paltjon ran to third base and ended up colliding with the third baseman. Even though the fielder was perfectly fine, Paltjon wasn't, and was rushed to Robert Johnson Hospital in New Brunswick, NJ. It was confirmed Paltjon had a C5, C6 level spinal cord injury. He was then transferred seven days later to Kessler Rehabilitation Institute in West Orange, NJ, a Reeve Foundation NeuroRecovery Network Center. He spent three months there as a patient.

"When Danny was released to go home I was actually one month pregnant with our son," explains Jackie. "That pushed even more motivation for him to get as much as he could physically because he knew there was a baby on the way."

While at Kessler, Paltjon and his wife, Jackie, 34, met Christopher Reeve. He was there making a speech. A couple of years later, the Paltjon's also met Dana Reeve at a fundraiser where she was signing her children's book Dewey Doo-it Helps Owlie Fly Again: A Musical Storybook Inspired by Christopher Reeve. "We even took a picture with her," says Jackie. "She seemed like a great person and was so nice to us."

A journey together

Paltjon and his wife met when they were 16-years-old high school students. "He was the captain of the football team, so he was always competitive," says Jackie. "He is a very physical person, and that helped him in the therapy aspect. I tease him that for a paralyzed guy he never stops moving."

The Paltjon's have grown up together and their bond is unbreakable. "At this point in our lives we spent more time together than apart," says Jackie. "We already had a strong past, a strong relationship going into it. We are partners and we have to continue to work like that to make our daily life function. Danny always says that there is no ‘I' in team."

Paltjon is a stay-at-home father, while Jackie works two jobs as an event planner and as a landscape architect.

Paltjon has been enrolled in online classes and he is now two courses away from getting his associates degree in Early Childhood Education. "Kids seem to cling on him," says Jackie, "so I think it would be a great career for him."

Little Danny riding on his dad's back

Little Danny riding on his dad's back

Bond between father and son

Their son Danny Jr., who is now seven-years-old, has always known his father as being a wheelchair user. "When little Danny was six-months-old, we would sit him on my husband's lap on the wheelchair and he would stay still," says Jackie. "That kid would sit for hours. It was an amazing connection that they had. When he would change his diapers, little Danny would stay still. He knew the difference."

Little Danny's friends are fascinated by his father's wheelchair. "They are never hesitant towards him," laughs Jackie. "They are usually hanging on him, trying to push him, and trying to ride on his lap."

Paltjon's son is also a little helper around the house. "He is a real team player," says Jackie. "He gets in there and helps out with whatever needs to be done.

Trying to keep up

Paltjon is still very physically active going camping with the family, having gone surfing several times with Life Rolls On, a subsidiary of the Reeve Foundation, and planning to try snow skiing this winter.

Along with still being active, the Paltjon's also visit Disney World every year. "We love going there because it is so accommodating," explains Jackie. "Disney is really good when it comes to handicapped individuals. They have pathways along with the stairs, and some of the rides are accessible. It makes you feel like you're part of the crowd."

With the grueling months of winter, Paltjon is still outside shoveling snow with the help of some family members near by.

Paltjon does however struggle when it comes to being a more physically active father. "He sees other dads doing physical things with their children that he can't do," says Jackie. "It is tough because if he is invited to a friend's house for a party, and if the house isn't handicap accessible, then he can't go."

Public places are very limiting as well. "It's hard to open a door when you are able bodied, so never mind doing it in a wheelchair," laughs Jackie. "He tends to roll with it, but I get upset, and sometimes go to the managers without Danny knowing, and tell them how I feel."

The Paltjon’s at Hailey’s christening

The Paltjon’s at Hailey’s christening

Staying strong for the family

After two years of Paltjon being injured, reality finally hit Jackie. "I went through a couple of months of anxiety and uneasiness, but surely I came through," explains Jackie. "I have hope that he will get better and he does, too. We have a six-month-old daughter, Hailey, and I bet one day he will walk her down the aisle."

Jackie's main mission right now is too keep her husband happy and healthy. "There are so many worse things that could have happened to him."

"He is totally self-sufficient," says Jackie. "We have had bumps in the rode but that's what life is about. Danny says, ‘bring it on.' You can either laugh about it, or cry about it."

Tell us your story

Telling your story is one way to let anyone touched by paralysis know that they are not alone. We've created a place where you can share your journey for your benefit, and the benefit of others. Your story matters. Share it!

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Pediatric SCI (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Religion and People with Disabilities (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Children with Disabilities (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Parenting with a Disability (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Mindfullness (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on New Injury Top 10 Questions (PDF) - EnglishA Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on New Injury Top 10 Questions (PDF) - Spanish

Kosair Charities Center for Pediatric NeuroRecovery at the University of LouisvilleThe Kosair Charities Center for Pediatric NeuroRecovery provides activity-based therapies to promote recovery from neurologic injury in children; conducts research to enhance recovery; and trains families, practitioners and scientists to maximize recovery and improve the quality of life for children and their families. In short, we are here to help kids kick paralysis and through science have every reason to hope.

National Resource Center for Parents with DisabilitiesA deep resource on childbirth and parenting, adaptive equipment for childcare, networking and support groups

Parenting with Disabilities OnlineProvides information, support and resources to parents with disabilities.

Parents On WheelsSite is dedicated to parents who use wheelchairs.

Parents with Disabilities OnlineProvide information and resources to parents with disabilities.

State Respite CoalitionsThe Chapel Hill Training-Outreach Project was established in 1969 with funding from the Federal government as part of our nation's earliest attempts to provide educational services to young children with disabilities.

Through the Looking GlassThe purpose of the National Parent-to-Parent Network at Through the Looking Glass is to connect parents, as well as those who are considering becoming parents, with others who may have shared similar experiences or faced common barriers as parents with disabilities.

Paralysis Resource Center The Reeve Foundation Paralysis Resource Center Information Specialists are reachable business weekdays, Monday through Friday, toll-free at 800-539-7309 from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm ET. You may also schedule a call or send a message online.

Reeve Foundation Online Paralysis Community Connecting people living with paralysis, families, friends and caregivers so we can share support, experience, knowledge, and hope.

Quality of Life Grants DatabaseFind resources within the PRC Quality of Life Grants Database. Search by Zip Code, State or an Entire Category.

Library Books and VideosFind resources within the PRC library catalog.

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The Reeve Foundation Paralysis Resource Center Information Specialists are reachable business weekdays, Monday through Friday, toll-free at 800-539-7309 from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Eastern U.S. Time. International callers use 973-467-8270. You may also schedule a call or send a message online.

This project was supported, in part by grant number 90PR3002, from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects under government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official Administration for Community Living policy.