In 2004, Dani Burt was 19 years old when she crashed her motorcycle into a guardrail, launching her off the side of a cliff. Luckily, Dani did not plummet the full 400 feet from the cliff’s edge. She only fell 45 feet before some thick shrubbery caught her.
The injuries Dani sustained during the crash and fall were so extensive that doctors were unable to perform the necessary operations to repair her splintered skeleton without causing her vitals to take a dangerous dive.
Dani’s doctors had no other choice but to place her into a medically-induced coma for 45 days.
By the time Dani regained consciousness, she couldn’t move a muscle. Even though her doctors performed the necessary operations to salvage her broken body, Dani’s muscles had virtually withered away after five (5) uninterrupted weeks of unconsciousness.
Moreover, her right leg was missing.
Because it took so long to get her vitals stable enough for surgery, Dani developed gangrene in her shattered right knee. Consequently, the doctors were forced to perform a transfemoral (above-the-knee) amputation. Dani was so dejected that the hospital put her on suicide watch.
From Limiting Disability to Limitless Possibility
Four weeks later, Dani received a visit that would transform her. Clint Mabry – a program manager for the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) at the time – informed Dani that CAF would support her rehabilitation with adaptive sports grants.
“He was showing me pictures of amputees in triathlons, running, biking and swimming,” Dani recalled. “Seeing people more athletic than I had been with two legs was important for me.”
For the next six months, Dani underwent intensive physical, occupational, and speech therapy at Sharp Memorial Hospital. Although Dani was making progress, she was in constant pain. Through the encouragement and support from her doctors, friends and the community at large, Dani was able to make a remarkable recovery.
Her sports training through CAF supplemented her progress in therapy, improving her strength, balance, and coordination. Dani began to focus on surfing after a friend from CAF demonstrated to her that it was possible. She crafted a custom prosthetic leg designed specifically to help her with surfing.
Eventually, Dani began to surf at a competitive level and is the first known female above-the-knee amputee surfer in the world. In 2016, Dani became the U.S. Adaptive Surfing Champion. The following year, Dani competed in the first-ever all-women division of adaptive surfing. She was also its inaugural champion.
Paying It Forward
The lessons Dani learned through her rehabilitation inspired Dani to pursue a career as a physical therapist herself.
Today, Dani works as a Doctor of Physical Therapy with amputees at Sharp Memorial Hospital – the very hospital where she underwent her own rehabilitation after barely surviving her devastating motorcycle accident and subsequent 45-day coma 14 years ago.
She chose to become a physical therapist in that setting so she could show patients what is possible after going through what is likely the darkest moments in their life: “It’s just such an incredible feeling to work with [amputees] on regaining their functional mobility, and shedding a light on what it’s like to be an amputee…they get to see what’s possible with your amputation and I hope with that, it makes [being an amputee] a little less daunting for them.”
ProFysio – Unlocking Possibilities for Monmouth County Residents
Every patient has an inspiring story that is waiting to be told. A physical therapist’s job is to help patients realize their stories by providing them with the medical guidance necessary for maximizing their opportunity for recovery. At ProFysio Physical Therapy, our licensed physical therapists work closely with their patients so they can unlock their latent potential for achieving amazing feats of determination and courage. We are lucky to work with patients who act as daily reminders that a person’s capacity to rise above their disabilities and achieve astounding results may be limitless.