• Neurology Patient Stories

    “Overcoming” Paralysis

This submission came via email from P.J. Stietz, a Mayo Clinic employee:

My husband and I just recently marked the sixth anniversary of the accident that paralyzed him. It was Mayo that came to his rescue, patched him up and got him ready to face the world again. We owe a great debt to the clinic. Not only did they provide superior care, but he was uninsured at the time and Mayo covered the majority of his hospital bill. Now that you have the Sharing Mayo Clinic blog, I thought it would be a wonderful way to share what Mayo has meant to us and to say "thanks." I hope you'll consider posting it.

We're happy to be able to share P.J.'s submission, with Dan's consent:

Six years ago this month, my husband, Dan, was riding his motorcycle when he was hit by a 17-year-old girl and instantly paralyzed from the waist down. He was flown by Mayo One to Saint Marys Hospital where, after two surgeries and several weeks of rehab, he started to learn how to cope with a new body and a new way of living.

I wish I could tell you that he was able to walk out of the hospital, but that kind of miracle does not come often to people with spinal cord injuries. But even if Mayo couldn’t give Dan back the ability to walk, they gave him something equally important - the knowledge and skills to go back into the world and live a normal life. They taught him how to transfer in and out of his wheelchair, wheelie down a ramp, propel himself through a door, get back into his chair if he took a tumble, and countless other skills he’d need to get through each day. This might not sound “normal” to anyone else, but for him it’s the way of life he has become accustomed to without thinking twice.

It seems simple to sum up these events in a paragraph, but I don’t think it’s very hard to imagine how difficult this injury has been for Dan. He was a third degree black belt and instructor in tae kwon do, was an avid runner, helped his parents farm…all things he’s had to give up since getting hurt. Add on problems like infections, pressure sores and the constant pain he lives with and I often wonder how he has the strength to face each day like he does.

Fortunately, Mayo is still there to back us up. Dr. Pingree in Pain Medicine keeps looking for ways to help Dan cope with the neuropathy, Tammy Vos in Rehab tries to find new solutions to his pressure sore problems, and Dr. Houston in Family Med watches out for his general health. Of course, there’s Dan himself. He’s way too modest to ever admit this, but he’s one of the strongest, most amazing people I know. He doesn’t complain, dwell on what he’s lost, or just try to get by. He lives his life fully, to the best of his ability, looking forward to what the future holds.

Later this month Dan will race his handbike in his fifth Med City Marathon, his ninth marathon since 2005. He qualified for the Boston Marathon his first time out, and has done so in every single race since. Now the next big goals are to save enough money for a new bike (his current one has miles nearly 5000 miles on it!) and a trip to Boston for the big race. It may take a couple of years to get there, but having seen what he’s already accomplished, and knowing he’s got the best health care in the world behind him, I don’t have a single doubt in his will make this dream come true.

Below are some photos of Dan from last year's Med-City marathon:

Dan Stietz on the Med City Marathon course


Dan Stietz on the Med City Marathon course

Dan Stietz finishing the Med City Marathon

This year's Med-City Marathon is May 24. Here are the race details if you want to go cheer on Dan and the other participants.

To find out how you can share your Mayo Clinic story, click here.

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