Editor’s Note: Dan and Csala Beers of Slatington, Pennsylvania, are married, both use wheelchairs and have a story that’s hard to believe. This great love story has a strong bond running through it.
Dan Beers Tells His Story
Before my motorbike accident, I was 25 and working for Nestle Waters when I had my accident on September 2, 2002, while going to a friend’s house. To avoid traffic, I took an old country road, which ironically is the same road where my wife Csala and I now live.
I came to a small hill, and as I went down and hit a dip in the road, my front tire came off the ground. I squeezed the brake, went off the road, landed on my left side and barrel-rolled, while still holding on to my motorcycle. Then the motorcycle hit me, broke seven vertebrae in my back and shattered my T-6 and T-7.
I was about 50 feet out in a field away from the road. I got my cell phone out of my jacket, and I called home, about 7 miles away, and then 911 for help. Ten minutes later my parents arrived, and then the ambulance showed up. Paramedics put me on a backboard and a gurney and loaded me into an ambulance.
I was so swollen that I was in the hospital for 2 days before the doctors could operate. A day after the surgery the doctors told me I had a spinal cord injury, had severed my spinal cord and probably never would walk again. However, I believed I would walk, although I was paralyzed from my belly button down.
Although I had no idea of what my future might hold, I made the decision in the hospital that my accident wasn’t changing who I was mentally or personally.
I worked hard during rehab. If the physical therapist told me to do 10 exercises, I’d do 15. Before my accident, I had worked out, ran track and cross country and was an avid skier, snowboarder and mountain bike rider. Next I went to the Good Shepherd Rehab Center in Allentown, Penn. I swam, tried to strengthen my legs and got leg braces.
A year and a half after my accident I plateaued, and the therapist told me, “Okay, you’ve had 1-1/2 years of therapy, you’re out of insurance money, and you’ll have to do your therapy on your own.” I was released as a patient but still returned there to ride the stem bike and work out.
After the hospital, I got an ATV and went 4 wheeling and hunting with my friends. Nestle didn’t hire me back because I couldn’t do my old job. Previously, I had worked part time at a sporting goods store as a bicycle mechanic, tuning up bikes and building them. So, I went back there, but it had become a ski and snowboard shop. Since they specialize in winter sports, I’m just employed from the beginning of September until April 1st, and I’m responsible for internet sales.
I had a very active dating life before my accident, and I didn’t let my accident stop me from going out, listening to bands and going to bars.
Actually, I was more forward after the accident than before my accident. If I saw a pretty girl, I’d roll over in my wheelchair and start talking to her.
Ten years ago I met my now wife Csala at her sister’s house at a July 4th party. I didn’t know Csala’s sister, but a friend of mine called and asked me to come. At 2:00 pm or so, I got out of my Blazer. Csala spotted me and asked, “Who are you, and how do you know my sister?” I explained that I was friends with Troy and Peggy, and she said okay. We talked for about two hours, which didn’t make Csala’s date very excited.
At that time, Csala was living in Ohio, but her sister and brother lived in Allentown, and she was coming to visit them in September, 2005, for her birthday. Csala talked with our mutual friend, Peggy, and Peggy told Csala she’d call me, since Csala had asked about me. I met Csala for the second time and we listened to a band play. She was flying back home. She told me she had a 4-hour layover in Philadelphia and asked why didn’t I drive down and keep her company.
We spent 2-1/2-hours talking and then continued the relationship by texting and calling. In August, 2006, she came back to go on vacation with her family, called and asked if I’d like to go and get something to eat. Csala told me, “I think I’d like to move here, but I’d have to find a job first.”
I asked what kind of job she was looking for, and she said she wanted to be a bank teller. I called a friend of mine who was the manager of a bank and asked if his bank was hiring tellers. When he said yes, I told him I had a friend who was moving from Ohio and needed a job. Csala sent in her resume, got the job at the bank in October, 2006, and moved to Allentown. In December, we started dating. All her family was meeting at Niagara Falls around the holidays, so she and I went a day early. I proposed to her there. I guess she knew a good thing when she saw it. [Yes, I’m laughing as I say that.]
Csala Shares Her Story
Dan pretty much got his story right. Something drew me to Dan and made me want to learn more about him. When Dan helped me get a job at the bank, and I moved, we didn’t date at first – just talked a lot. I wanted to know I’d moved for the right reasons and wasn’t making a foolish decision to give up my job in Ohio, quit my college and move to Pennsylvania. I was majoring in elementary education, so I transferred to Cedar Crest College, lived with my sister, worked at the bank full time in the day and attended college at night.
I’m often asked what my family thought about me dating a guy in a wheelchair. They had mixed emotions about mine and Dan’s relationship.
I’d get questions like, “Are you really sure you want to do this and take care of him in a wheelchair for the rest of your life? You’re so young, why do you want to do that?” Other people would say, “He’ll hold you back. You’ll want to go out and do things, but you can’t because Dan can’t go.” But then over time, my family and friends got to know Dan and came to understand why I loved him.
I loved everything about Dan, and we had so much in common. Dan and I both have quirky personalities and like the same quirky things. Dan’s one of the only people I know who can quote lines from movies as well as I can.
When I saw Dan, I didn’t see his wheelchair, I saw him and, I wanted to be with him.
I let everyone know that Dan would be around for a long time, and that they could either love him and me together, or not at all. Eventually Dan had all my family and friends in love with him too. We got married in 2013 after an engagement of 6-1/2 years, that included my graduating from college with a degree in education and one in Special Ed. Everyone said it was about time we got married.Earlier this year, on Super Bowl Sunday, February 1, the weather man was predicting a big snow storm to hit the next day. Dan and I were just sitting around the house waiting for the Super Bowl to start. I told Dan I thought I’d go and buy some milk. Dan’s car was parked outside, so I jumped in his car and went to the dairy, a couple of miles from our home.
The street where we live, the street where Dan became paralyzed, is surrounded by agricultural fields.
In the winter months, the snow blows across the fields and forms drifts of snow on our road, often with ice underneath. The car skidded, and the backend of the car came to the front. I corrected the skid, the backend skidded in the other direction, and I corrected again.
The car whipped around, and I was facing the direction from where I’d come with snowbanks on either side of the road. I hit a snowbank, the car tipped over, and then it barrel-rolled side over side down a hill. I always wear my seatbelt, but because the trip to the dairy was so spontaneous and short, I hadn’t worn my seatbelt.
I was ejected from the car and landed in the snow. Someone came running from the road to where I was, thinking my car was on fire. As he got closer, he saw the car was stuck in gear and throwing dirt up in the air. He ran over to the car and cut the motor off.
I realized later that where my accident occurred was 3/10 of a mile from where Dan’s accident had happened — on the same road where we live today.
The man recognized Dan’s truck, called Dan, told him what had happened and went to pick him up. More people came and started talking to me. I didn’t know how badly I was hurt, but I knew something was very wrong. A woman holding my head said, “I thought there was something mentally wrong with you when you said, ‘I can’t be paralyzed because my husband is paralyzed.’”
When Dan showed up at the accident, the lady couldn’t believe that two married people had both had accidents within 3/10 of a mile of the same place. I kept thinking I was dreaming. But when the EMTs brought the gurney down and put me on the backboard, I felt an unbelievable jolt of pain. When Dan asked if I was okay, I answered, “No,” and asked him to keep my wedding ring.
On the way to the hospital, the ambulance broke down, and the driver called for another ambulance and a medivac copter. After I’d was x-rayed, I was put in a quiet room. A doctor came in, held my hand and told me I’d broken my back.
The doctor said, “I’m going to be straight forward with you. You suffered a spinal cord injury, and it’s not likely you’ll ever walk again.”
I broke T-12, the last thoracic vertebra, and that was the only injury I had sustained in the crash. I didn’t have any other broken bones, bruises or contusions. The following morning after my accident (February 2, 2015) I was operated on, but then after surgery, my lungs collapsed. I couldn’t breathe on my own, and I had respiratory failure. I was in a medically induced coma for another day, in intensive care for five days and then went to the rehab hospital for two months.
Today I’m paralyzed from the waist down, but I can feel all the way down to my hips. Because of Dan, I already knew what life in a wheelchair was like, but I don’t think Dan knew anybody in a wheelchair until after his accident. So, I was able to deal better than most people with a spinal cord injury. Dan was my mentor.
I knew everything he was able to do, and how he hadn’t let being in a wheelchair change him. I thought, “So, why should I let my accident change me?”
Every day I think, “I’m still here.” This accident could have ended entirely different. I could have mental and more serious physical problems, I could be on a feeding tube, and I could not be aware of what’s going on around me. I’m not alone. I know that with Dan I can do anything that I want to do.
I’d been working as a sales person at the Mercedes and Porsche dealership, because I couldn’t find a teaching job. I loved people and talking to people. For me, selling cars was fun. Every day was different, and I met new people daily. My many customers reached out to me and to my employer after they heard about my accident. I was always happy and excited to see my customers get the cars of their dreams.
I hope to return to that same job when I get released to go back to work, because right now, I am still in very strenuous physical therapy. I go to therapy twice a week and am hoping to build up some muscle memory as well as fire some nerves in my legs. My injury is considered an incomplete injury. In zero gravity, I have some actual movement in my legs and my leg muscles are firing and strengthening some.
I’m hopeful and optimistic that I may get some movement back in my legs.
Right now, Dan and I want to get back to a normal routine and a normal life. Okay, things are different now, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a normal life. We both want to go back to work, come home and spend time with each other. We want to do what everyone else does in the world – get up in the morning, dress, go to work and have dinner together.
We will live a normal life like everyone else, but we’ll just have to live that life somewhat differently from everyone else. Our normal is now different.
The Beers have set up a GoFundMe site to raise money to help with their medical expenses and home modifications. The link is http://www.gofundme.com/la8rbs
Additional Resources From Wheel:Life on Relationships
Within Reconnecting: Relationship Advice from Wheelchair Users, readers will hear from people who use wheelchairs as they share their perspective on friends, family and relationships including dating, marriage and parenting.
Author Lisa Wells shares real-life examples and success stories throughout the book based on her lengthy career that includes ongoing interactions with disability advocates, non-profit supporters and peer support group members.
Reconnecting: Relationship Advice from Wheelchair Users features interviews with:
- Graduate student & quadriplegic Ather Sharif about connecting on a college campus
- Amputee Thomas Morris on connecting through his unique appearance and personality
- NSCIA [Buffalo, NY chapter] President Natalie Barnhard who connects Wheels with Wings
- Paraplegic Todd Robinson who explains his family connection through the joy of adoption
- Quadriplegic Ashleigh Justice who connects on the quad rugby field and as a young mother
About the Author:
For the last 12 years, John E. Phillips of Vestavia, Alabama, has been a professional blogger for major companies, corporations and tourism associations throughout the nation. During his 24 years as Outdoor Editor for “The Birmingham Post-Herald” newspaper, he published more than 7,000 newspaper columns and sold more than 100,000 of his photos to newspapers, magazines and internet sites. He also hosted a radio show that was syndicated at 27 radio stations; created, wrote and sold a syndicated newspaper column that ran in 38 newspapers for more than a decade; and wrote and sold more than 30 books. Learn more at www.johninthewild.com.