Last year, while vacationing at a resort in Cancun, Danica lost most of the feeling below her waist after jumping off a 10-foot wall onto what she thought was sand. It turned out to be concrete.
That happened on Feb. 19, 2013.
Fast-forward almost one year later, and things are progressing quite well for the former Sudburian.
“She's doing well, and we are really, really proud of her,” said Mary. “She could have went two ways after her accident. She could have really felt sorry for herself and wallowed in self pity, but she didn't. She was determined from the very beginning.”
Mary was at work the first time Danica walked during a physiotherapy session. Danica's boyfriend, Eduardo Villada, who was with Danica in Mexico at the time of her accident, sent Mary a video of her daughter walking.
“I just started to cry,” she said. “They told us she would never walk, but she's proof that you never say never. She's doing what she needs to do, and she's going to be fine, she's going to be happy, and that's all you want for your kids.”
Danica, who now lives in the Toronto area, was in Sudbury over the weekend with her sledge hockey team, the Ice Dawgs. They played a game at the Garson Arena. She has been playing sledge hockey and wheelchair basketball since September, and while she said she loves them both, she has taken more of a liking to sledge hockey.
“My team is amazing, they are the nicest people in the world,” Danica said. “It feels good to be able to get on the ice again, it's refreshing. And learning something new is also fun.”
While she has yet to score her first goal, she is just concentrating on learning the rules of the game.
“I wasn't a hockey fan before this, and it was a steep learning curve,” she said. “I didn't even know what off-side meant, but now I've perfected that and I can move onto perhaps scoring goals.”
Competing in both sledge hockey and wheelchair basketball has also introduced her to many people who have spent their entire lives in a wheelchair. They've helped Danica to adjust and find ways to do things she said she might have thought were impossible.
Danica said when the accident first happened, no one gave her a guarantee she would ever walk again. But, in September, she proved she has the will and determination to make that happen.
“It felt great,” she said. “I think it felt better for my parents to see it, because I was just focused on doing it. My muscles were so weak then, but now it just feels good to be able to stand up and get something out of the cupboard.”
She's also undergoing a new physiotherapy program with the ultimate goal to have her walking again.
Outside of sports, Danica is now driving again. Her parents installed hand controls in Mary's smart car, and she's now driving the 400 and 401. She has also applied for post-secondary education and hopes to pursue a career as a social worker. She also volunteers at a seniors residence, where she helps teach adaptive Zumba classes.
Danica and her parents said the feel very grateful to benefit from the generosity of Sudburians. Through an April 26 event dubbed An Evening for Danica, organizers raised $38,000 to cover the cost of her surgery in Mexico.
“That was all thanks to Sudbury — local businesses, friends, family and the public. It was incredible,” she said.
With files from Heidi Ulrichsen