Love Keeps Them Strong
By: Sonia Lima
Name: Danny Paltjon
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."
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 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."
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.
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."
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."
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.
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