“My Dream is to spend time with Dale Jr. and see a race!”
“I am tickled to death.” This is an expression which is probably not spoken by very many 18-year-old boys from Robbinsville, NC, who love to ride dirt bikes, ATVs, fish, hunt bear, watch NASCAR and pull ginseng. Nor is it an expression frequently spoken by a young man whose life has been dramatically changed and finds himself now paralyzed from the chest down. However, there is nothing typical about Daylan, and this is a phrase he has offered as genuine responses to several questions including, “Are you glad to be going home from the hospital for the first time in 5 months” and “Are you excited to meet Dale Earnhardt, Jr.?”
On February 24, 2018, in order to avoid being hit by a car, Daylan took out a road sign and drove his dirt bike off of a 30-foot embankment. He was life-flighted to the hospital, where doctors found that Daylan had one punctured lung as well as multiple injuries to his spinal cord and neck. Chances were slim that Daylan would survive. An incredible fighter (or according to him, just really stubborn), Daylan did survive, his lung was repaired, and he was placed in a back brace and halo to support his spine and neck, which he couldn’t do on his own. Doctors also told Daylan that given the locations and severity of his spinal injuries, he would likely spend the rest of his life in this halo. After 3 months at Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia, and what his recreational and physical therapists identify as “some of the hardest rehab work they have ever seen from a patient,” Daylan discarded his halo and back brace.
While it’s likely that Daylan will spend the rest of his life as a paraplegic, he refuses to allow that to define who he is and what he will do. Before leaving the hospital, he was already making plans and gathering resources to secure a job as soon as possible, outfit his truck and fishing boat to accommodate his wheelchair, and figure out how to get back in the woods, where he belongs, to hunt. “I am not going to sit around and be depressed; I have a lot of life to live and that’s not going to change because of a wheelchair.”
Daylan exuded this same positive, no-nonsense attitude in everything he has done at Shepherd from his own rehab to playing his guitar at their prom to serving as a positive and comforting role model to new patients. Daylan also has a great circle of supporters around him. His mom, dad and girlfriend, Carly, have been by his side to face each new challenge and celebrate each success. After the accident, great friends and community in Robbinsville also filled the hospital waiting room and surrounded Daylan and his family with love and prayers.
Daylan likes Dale, Jr. because “he is a good country boy who likes to go fast and be outside.” Shake and Bake” as Daylen is affectionately called by Shepherd staff and patients, says he would love to meet Dale Jr. and go hunting and fishing with him. As he prefers with most of his rehab equipment speeds, Daylan would prefer that the speed of the boat be “Wide Open” and, Dale, Jr. would probably agree.