In 2005, I suffered a permanent spinal cord injury from a drunk driver. The night it happened, I had been heading back to campus after playing piano for services at my synagogue.The night it happened, I had been heading back to campus after playing piano for services at my synagogue. In addition to the spinal cord injury, I also suffered a punctured lung, splenic laceration, and eight broken ribs. I spent ten days at the ICU in Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in New Brunswick and then four months at a rehab facility in northern New Jersey. I am a paraplegic and have an incomplete spinal cord injury at the T-4, T-5, and T-6 vertebrae. Since the accident, I have managed to return to my life as a composer, arranger, choir director, and accompanist, but things will never be the same as they were before. I constantly must confront physical and emotional challenges.
My story is far from over. I am married. I am a successful and well-respected musician. I consider myself incredibly lucky. And I know I have the potential to rise even higher.
By the end of my presentation, audiences will understand the permanent effects a temporary lapse in judgment can cause. I hope I can encourage people to behave responsibly, and by so doing, ensure that their loved ones behave responsibly as well.
However, my message is not simply “don’t drink and drive.” I offer my own thoughts on how to reclaim life following deep loss. One does not have to have faced adversity on the level I did to utilize what I have learned. These lessons can be applied to everyday life to help anyone achieve excellence. I share how I strive every day to make my spinal cord injury not a symbol of victimhood but instead a source of strength. I can help audiences to find that source of strength within themselves.
“As Dave was speaking to our Driver's Education and Health students you could see the impact in their faces. His message of perseverance and making positive decisions may have saved someone's life.”
--Mark Cantagallo, Principal, Cranford High School, Cranford, NJ