One moment, 25 year old Danielle O'Grady was graduating from SUNY Geneseo with a degree in vocal performance. The next, she was lying in guarded condition at Strong. A month after her graduation, Danielle and her younger sister Kelly were hit head on by a drunk driver. Kelly was pronounced dead at the scene, while Danielle was rushed to Strong with multiple injuries.
"You never think you can get through something like that," Danielle says. "It was more than I thought I could handle. But I had so many people cheering me on."
Danielle's injuries included a collapsed lung, a fractured and dislocated hip, two broken ribs, a fractured collarbone, multiple abrasions, and a chipped eye socket. She also sustained a right upper arm (or humerus) fracture and a left elbow and forearm fracture. After she was stabilized, Danielle underwent multiple surgeries to repair her lung and arms. "They did it really efficiently," Danielle says. "I had five surgeries, but I only had to go in the OR twice."
Danielle spent 12 days in the Intensive Care Unit. "I was pretty out of it," she says. "But my parents were there all the time. They knew other hospitals in the area, but they were so glad I was taken to Strong. They said the nurses were great and that people really cared. "
Miraculously, Danielle was able to leave the hospital after a few weeks. "I surprised all the doctors," she says. "I was leaps and bounds ahead of what they predicted in terms of healing." In a wheelchair, she underwent physical therapy and was able to walk on crutches within a few months. "I healed fast because I'm young but also because so many people were supporting me."
One of those people was her surgeon, Dr. Jonathan Gross, who specializes in orthopaedic trauma and complex bone fractures. Danielle says, "He was always positive and encouraging and he spoke on my level—I understood him. He was really good about explaining everything. I'd bring in a list of questions and he'd answer them for me."
Less than seven months after the accident, Danielle is almost completely recovered. "I'm still undergoing physical therapy to help the pronation in my forearm and to strengthen my leg, but my therapy is really for building and strengthening at this point."
Perhaps the most difficult part of her recovery has been her inability to perform as a singer. The intubation from her hospitalization temporarily affected her throat. She says, "I went to Strong again and saw Dr. Haben, who is a vocologist." She says. "He said it was just a matter of time before I could sing again."
Danielle, a coloratura soprano, rehearses daily to recover her vocal range. "Coloratura is so temperamental," she says. "It's two or three notes above everyone else, so I am missing two or three notes in my range right now, but I really do think I'll get it back."
Danielle is engaged to be married, and is spending a month in China this year. "I've learned to live every day as though it's your last. And appreciate people as though it's their last," she says. "I still take it one day at a time. But I was able to get through this because of my family, my faith, and of course, I couldn't have done it without the doctors and nurses at Strong. I was just so blessed by how they treated me. The care that I got was phenomenal."