Danielle's story

When shots rang out in Toronto in July 2018 Danielle Kane rushed out to see if she could help. Danielle knew from having just completed her first year of nursing that the “first few minutes are crucial.”

The gunman fired and hit Danielle, shattering her T11 Vertebra, Danielle became one of the 13 injured that night, 2 others would lose their lives.

Danielle was put in a medically induced coma for 11 days. Surgeons fused two nearby vertebrae to stabilize her spine and another three operations dealt with injuries to her abdomen.

Leaving the compassionate, understanding, and supportive environment provided by dedicated rehab staff, Danielle found, as many do, that she was not fully prepared for the mental challenge of “living with a disability in an able-bodied world.”

Danielle connected with Spinal Cord Injury Ontario. Peer Support helped Danielle see that she was part of a community, and that others had overcome challenges she faced like dealing with the unfairness and randomness of her injury. Navigation helped Danielle connect with resources and help she needed, including supports for victims of violent crimes.

Danielle’s challenges were magnified by not having family nearby that were in a position to help. Danielle lost crucial support in her life when everything proved too much for her relationship of 3 years. And then, only two months after her relationship ended, the pandemic hit.

While the isolating effects of the pandemic magnified daily, Danielle struggled to care for herself and deal with her pain. When the specialty pain clinic said there was “nothing more they could do”, Danielle was facing a life taking 6 medications and still having to live with level 8+ pain.

Danielle slid into a depression.

“I was at the end of myself. I was very desperate and entertaining thoughts of self-harm. Though she considered herself an atheist, feeling overwhelmed, Danielle asked God for help. I said: ‘God, if you are real, I really need you right now … all I can say is that I felt this feeling of peace … I can’t really explain it except that I felt like God was here to help me.” Danielle says her faith is an important source of strength for her.

Danielle then tried laser therapy, this helped bring her pain levels down from unbearable.

It was also around this time Danielle spoke to one of her mentors, Peter Athanasopoulos, Director of Advocacy for Spinal Cord Injury Ontario, about self care and moving forward. He helped her see that she did not have to give up on her dreams, including being a mother, and suggested she try online dating.

Danielle embraced the advice and created a profile, sharing her story, the importance of her faith, her favourite books, and pictures of her in her chair.

“And it’s crazy. I met the most perfect person for me.”

The couple hit it off. They found themselves spending more and more time together. They soon realized they wanted to build a life together and they were engaged in March 2022. “Now,” she says, “I’m always hoping for the best instead of expecting the opposite.”

Four months later, the night before her wedding, Danielle practised dancing in her wheelchair, she had always loved to dance, and she wanted to feel that feeling at her wedding. At the reception Danielle wheeled to the centre of the dance floor, Celine Dion’s “The Power of Love” began and the new bride and new husband danced in a room filled with tears of joy.

And not long after the honeymoon, a pregnancy test washed away the fears of age, scar tissue and a spinal cord injury keeping Danielle from becoming a mother.

Though there were moments in the pregnancy and birth that gave cause for concern little Chloé was born healthy weighing in at five pounds, four ounces.

It’s been a little more than a year since Chloé’s birth. There are special challenges raising a child while living with a spinal cord injury. Danielle takes things day by day, but she is determined to focus on light and hope, and she knows there is a community ready to help.


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