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Danielle Johnson

What a difference a summer makes: Priceville teen inspires others after Memorial Day accident

No one could have imagined how much Danielle Johnson’s life would change from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Danielle was celebrating Memorial Day weekend on Smith Lake when a personal watercraft accident severely damaged her left foot. By Labor Day weekend she used her prosthesis to ride a bike at Point Mallard Park. Her mom, Yvette Stackhouse, gives all the credit for her remarkable recovery to God, Children’s Hospital and Danielle’s own determination.

This thirteen-year-old is not going to let life without a left foot slow down her plans. “She even wore a skirt and flip flops the first day of school, even though her prosthetic leg doesn’t have ‘skin’ yet,” says Yvette.

But the process has been far from easy. Danielle was spending time with her dad, Bama Johnson, when the accident occurred. In what the family believes were providential provisions, Johnson rushed his daughter to a nearby dock and sought help at the property’s house. The owner “happened” to be home and to be an operating room nurse. She stopped the bleeding so that Danielle could be transported by rescue boat, ambulance and helicopter to Children’s.

There Dr. Scott Doyle attempted to reattach the foot. Despite 77 hours of Intensive Care Unit circulation therapy, the foot had to be amputated.

“That was the hardest thing,” says Yvette. But a few days later Danielle, Yvette and Stepdad Jay were home, beginning a physical therapy regimen that resulted in two beach trips. She even learned to swim again with the help of a paraplegic Olympic coach and a 17-year-old amputee at Birmingham’s Lakeshore Rehabilitation Center.

“She’s just doing awesome. I didn’t know she was this strong,” says Yvette, who believes good can be wrought from suffering. “God just chose her for a special job, to help someone else. He’s going to use Danielle for a purpose that we have no clue about.”

Danielle remembers the name of everyone who attended her after the accident, from the nurse who stopped the bleeding at her dock to the ambulance workers and Children’s Hospital staff members. She says she made friends with the staff at Children’s and liked that everything there was geared to kids.

“I liked everything about Children’s,” Danielle says. “I loved all the nurses there. I like that the doctors will talk to you and don’t leave you out of everything. And they have things to keep you entertained. It’s just a great place.”

“They were amazing,” says Yvette of Dr. Doyle and the Children’s team. She said the entire staff, including the hospital chaplain, cared for both Danielle and the family, doing everything possible to save Danielle’s foot and then everything possible to help her thrive without it.

Neither Yvette nor Danielle is sure what the future will hold, but the family knows it will be bright. Danielle has varied interests, and has even considered medicine as a career. For now her focus will be on the eighth grade, getting to all her classes on her prosthetic (“It’s hard at times,” Danielle admits) and learning to run again.

Those who know her say that whatever she does will continue to be an inspiration and a credit to family faith, dedicated medical professionals and her own considerable determination.
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