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Never Give Up!

Story provided by the Couarge Center

Denny Prothero has a busy year ahead. Once an auto technician and volunteer firefighter, he is embarking upon a new career. He intends to start and run his own business designing and marketing T-shirts and hoodies to teens and adults.

Why the career change?

“Let’s be practical,” Prothero says, patting the armrest of his wheelchair. “I’m not equipped for my old life, but I have no intention of sitting around watching TV."

Prothero was hit by a drunk driver on December 23, 2004. He was 50. The impact broke his neck, resulting in quadriplegia.

“I spent 15 months at the Courage Center’s Transitional Rehabilitation Program (TRP). I did many therapies — physical therapy, occupational therapy, workouts in the gym, driver education — all aimed at helping me put my life back together.”

Even then, Prothero was already giving back. “I became TRP’s go-to guy that people could approach to ask questions about the Courage Center or about all sorts of issues surrounding disability. I guess I’m approachable, and I make a fair intermediary.”

Upon leaving the Transitional Rehabilitation Program, Prothero continued his fitness therapies at Courage Center St. Croix in Stillwater.

“With the Courage Center’s help, I’ve achieved a lot. I have regained some upper body strength and movement in my arms. I drive an adapted van, have my own apartment, and am fairly independent, but not entirely. My siblings and children all have supported me through this life-changing ordeal, and a personal care attendant helps me.”

“Then, of course, there’s Hemi, my service dog. He’s a three-year-old blond golden retriever. He’s my companion and helper. You could say we’ve bonded.”

Five years after his accident, Prothero clearly sees his goals. “I’m going to walk one day, drive a Ford Mustang, and live unassisted.”

In the meantime, he says he has much to do, “Like, starting my new business and, like, cooking. I learned how to cook from my Italian mother. When I was taking an adaptive cooking class at the Courage Center, my classmates all wanted to know when it was my turn to cook so they could be sure to show up for samples. I learned a lot and taught a lot.”

Prothero also volunteers, giving guided tours to visitors at the Courage Center St. Croix and providing skilled guest services at the information desk at the Courage Center Golden Valley. He is piloting an educational program in which he travels to schools to speak to students about disability issues. “Our first pilot in May went extremely well. Kids are interested in understanding how life is for people with disabilities. It’s important to reach out and tell them.”

One of the messages Prothero leaves with the many individuals whose lives he touches is, “Never give up. Never surrender!” He is living the message. “I was once a certified auto tech and firefighter,” he says with practical simplicity. “Now I’m working on a new life.”



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