Gardnerville man fights to regain his life
Danny Haesaerts is an odds-defying kind of guy.
Eleven years ago he met his bride on the Internet, despite the fact that he was a cop in Belgium and she was a graphic designer in Gardnerville.
Now, six weeks after tripping and breaking his neck in his hallway, Haesaerts is working his way back, thanks to “a little bit of luck, a little bit of wisdom and a little bit of strength,” he said.
“I was considered a quadriplegic. Dr. (Michael) Song did incredible surgery so now I am in rehab,” Haesaerts said Tuesday from his bed at Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center. “I can feed myself, stand on my own legs. I’m exercising every day three hours to get better.
“Dr. Song gave me about 70-percent chance of recuperating. I might have a big chance of beating this whole thing and go back to maybe my old life.”
Haesaerts’ run-of-the-mill tumble in his hallway should have just left him with bruises – he was carrying groceries when he tripped on the leg of an exercise machine.
“It’s pretty ironic that you get a machine into your house to better your health and it breaks your neck,” he said.
“My head did a 45-degree inclination and my vertebrae in the neck basically shattered. I knew it immediately that something was really wrong,” said the retired cop of 27 years. “I couldn’t move and I couldn’t feel anything at all.”
Wife Bonnie immediately called 911 and paramedics collected Haesaerts and rushed him to Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center. The following day he underwent a six-and-a-half hour surgery to repair the shattered vertebrae. But he was still unable to move.
“When I came here in rehab, I was a jellyfish. I couldn’t move at all. I was completely paralyzed from the shoulders down,” he said.
Now, Haesaerts, motivated by his desire to reclaim his life, endures three hours of physical therapy and 1.5 hours of occupational therapy daily.
Bonnie said she never doubted her husband’s ability to get better.
“He’s just amazing. Something else happens in the positive, every day. I know Danny, he’s unstoppable. If he wants to do something, you can take it to the bank that he’s going to do it,” she said.
Haesaerts admits that sometimes he might feel down about his situation.
“You have moments where you go to the dark place,” he said. “It’s usually when you wake up, you start thinking too much. So when that happens to me, I usually start doing something with my arms or legs, start doing exercises, That takes my mind off it. It’s really easy to go the pity road. It’s just better not to.”
While there’s plenty of work ahead of him, Haesaerts said he’s confident he’ll regain most of his mobility.
“There’s two ways to handle this – you can start whining and complaining, or you can keep your morale up there and try to beat this,” he said. “It’s working out really well for me. I think it’s mind over matter, with a little bit of luck, good surgery and good people.”