I was born on July 24th, 1972 at Annapolis General Hospital in Annapolis, Maryland. Weighing in at just about 8 pounds, I was a normal healthy baby boy. As a child I was very quiet, loving, and found joys in the simple things. Happy and content in everything I did. I am the youngest of three with a brother just 15 months older than I.
When I was 6 years old I remember coming home and telling my father ‘I cannot run as fast as the other kids.’ From this statement my father knew that I had Muscular Dystrophy (MD). My brother had already been diagnosed with MD. Unsure at this time what type of MD either of us had, life had to continue regardless. So life with MD begins.
I attended Broadneck Elementary school in Cape St.Clair, Maryland. I was a normal kid with plenty of energy. I walked funny due to having the MD and of course kids would tease me. Some would call me ‘chicken legs’ and mock the way I walked. The teasing would frustrate me and upset me quite a bit. I would always think: ‘I can’t help the way I am, so why are they teasing me?.’ Being a kid and dealing with a disability was not the easiest task. I overcame the teasing with strong support from my family and the true friends I had. My ambition to live a good life was evident at a young age.
Outside of school I enjoyed playing sports with my neighborhood friends. We would play baseball, soccer, or football. Even with MD I was still able to walk and I was able to play in the games. I did not let the MD stop me from living. My brother and I had go-carts and we spent countless days racing around the field next to our house. I discovered a love for speed and racing. I also developed a passion for fishing. My father had a boat and we would go fishing nearly every weekend in the warmer months.
I attended a private school from the 6th grade through the 8th grade named Chesapeake Academy located in Arnold, Maryland. I tried to go back to a public school in the 7th grade, but that only worked for half of the year. The kids at that school teased me so much and I was constantly getting in fights with them. So I went back to Chesapeake Academy. I flourished at this school. The small class size and the one on one teacher approach worked for me. For the first time I started to enjoy and do very well in school. During these years my passion for fishing grew stronger and I was reading every fishing magazine available. Weekends were still enjoyed fishing on the Chesapeake. I also discovered computers in this time period. I spent many hours learning computers and at 12 years old I put my first PC computer together. I was able to do all of my own hardware changes/upgrades and software came easy to me. I also discovered Radio Control cars, boats, and planes. I found my place in building and assembling things. As time went on I got weaker and sports became a past-time. In middle school I helped coach the soccer and volley ball teams and I still found my heart in it even though playing was not possible.
I chose to go back and give public school High School a try. I attended Severna Park Senior High School for the 9th through 12th grade in Severna Park, Maryland. What a difference in High School. The kids who used to tease me finally matured and could look past my disability. In High School walking became more difficult for me. I got a pass to leave class 5 minutes early just so I could avoid the crowded hallways. One push was all it would take for me to fall. I would also fall unexpectedly at times due to a faulty step or loss of balance. This was stressful, but I was determined to stay walking as long as I could. During High School I started to go to work at my father’s company on weekends. I assembled mechanical systems, milled/drilled/tapped Aluminum parts, soldered circuit boards, and helped with anything else I could. My hard work ethic really started to come to at this point. I can call my High School years a very good beginning to my adult life. I really learned direction and where I wanted to go in life.
I graduated High School in 1991. In the Spring of 1991, I started to attend Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, Maryland. I chose Mechanical Engineering as my major. I worked part time in my father’s company and attended classes part time during my college years. I started to use a motorized 3-wheel scooter in my second year of college. I could still walk, but the long walks outside became too difficult for me. MD is a progressive muscle disease so over time I will get weaker and weaker. This sounds depressing, but people are given the ability to overcome obstacles and adapt to changes as they come. I learned my limitations and adapted as change occurred. Fortunately the progressive weakness is slow in my case. I made sure I limited the use of the scooter and did not let it make me lazy. The fight in me took over and I simply used the scooter to get from class to class and to help carry my heavy books. I did not use my scooter at home during these years.
In 1993, I decided to stop going to college and work full-time for my father’s engineering company. I took the position as a Computer Aided Designer. An employee had resigned so it was a perfect time for me to step in. I was quickly trained in this position and within a couple of weeks I was laying out advanced circuit board designs as well as 2-D drawings in AutoCAD. I really found happiness and reward in this work. I made a few mistakes, but I learned from them and moved on to success.
One morning in the Spring of 1994 my life suddenly changed. I was walking into the bathroom to take a shower and I lost my balance. I was in front of the sink and as I fell towards the left my right foot got stuck under the ledge at the bottom of the sink cabinet. I hit my shoulder very hard on the closet door as I fell to the ground. I immediately felt pain in my right foot and in my left shoulder. My father heard the fall and came to help me. He helped me up and helped me into the kitchen. I attempted to stand on my right foot, but the pain was just too intense. Me being a stubborn 21 year old I refused to go to the hospital. I used my scooter to get around and I used a second scooter to get around in my house. As my foot and shoulder healed I had to get used to a life of not walking. This was hard on me! After nearly four weeks my foot healed and I attempted to walk again. I stood up successfully, but the pain in my back was tremendous. I stood up for about twenty minutes thinking the pain would subside. During the healing time my back muscles contracted and my muscles weakened. I consulted my doctor and he advised me to give up walking as they felt it had become too dangerous and it was not advantageous for me. I had many falls previous to the fall and had to make the tough decision. For the first time in my life I gave in. My life had suddenly become less stressful physically, but more challenging mentally.
I decided to upgrade to a motorized wheelchair when I discovered my walking days were over. When I got in the wheelchair for the first time I discovered a comfort I had not known previously. My chair was fast with a top speed of 7.25 mph. Remember in my early years my fondness for speed and racing? This somewhat fulfilled that need and life was good. The motorized wheelchair gave me more independence beyond what I had when I struggled to walk. Mobility was no longer a problem and I became more active. The struggle walking all of those years gave me strength, determination, and the fight that guides my life even today.
When it started to take me 3 hours in the morning to shower and get ready change was needed. The struggle was just too much and it was affecting my work and energy level. With the advisement of my family and others I decided it was time for a health aide to come in and start helping me. So to begin with, I accepted a health aide three days a week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings to help me shower. On the other days I switched to taking a shower at night to avoid the struggle in the morning. This worked for a couple of years and I found myself doing quite well physically. I continued working full-time. My role in the company changed to Systems Engineering and Product Development.
As time progressed, my muscles weakened and more help became necessary. So I accepted a health aide 7-days a week for two hours each morning. This really helped and saved me a lot of time and energy to use for my life. I worked very hard in the business and became General Manager. I worked my way from a beginning position to a very prominent position in the company. In 1999, my father retired so I took over his position as CEO/General Manager. Lots of stress, lots of work, but I was trained and fortunately I was branded by the best man I will ever know: my father.
I discovered a fondness for socializing and having a good time at this point. I started to go to Night Clubs, Bars/Pubs, Concerts, Camping, really anything socially fun. I will write about this in another blog at a later date.
On November, 7th 2001 I achieved something I had wanted for a long time. I finally obtained my Maryland Driver’s license. No one had confidence I could do this and they were worried of me failing. Failing is not in my vocabulary for something I can control. I knew I could do this and I worked hard to make sure I did. At 30 years old after a lot of training and driving, I became a driver of a Dodge Grand Caravan Sport which is converted with a 10-inch lowered floor, folding ramp, electric wheelchair tie-downs, and digital joystick driving system with LCD panel for secondary controls. I am able to drive into the van in my wheelchair and drive directly from my chair. I was very happy to prove everyone wrong and to finally complete a dream I had since being a kid. I drove for a while, but unfortunately never got completely comfortable with the set-up. I felt like I failed though I simply decided it was too risky for me and others to drive. I can still look back and smile and know I succeeded in driving.
Life is very enjoyable for me, even though I would like to explain some of the physical troubles I lived with day to day. I finally accepted a full-time health aide who drives me, provides personal care, and helps me with food preparation. I will explain parts of a typical day for me. I became unable to sit myself up in bed so I started with help each morning for this purpose. For the next 20 minutes I spent transferring myself to my scooter. The health aide was here in this time, but I chose to do the transfer with no help. This was not easy for me and is the reason the process took so long. During this time I had a health aide help me dress and shower. I did all of my own transfers (i.e. bed to scooter, scooter to toilet, scooter to shower bench, scooter to wheelchair). I called these my’ workouts’ as it took a lot of energy each day. I do believe these transfers kept me strong. My other option was to use what is called a Hoyer lift. This would eliminate the need for these transfers, but what would this do to me physically? Would I lose my strength quicker and be forced to give up my active lifestyle?
Everything was going fine until October 12th, 2007. After getting home late from Downtown Annapolis, I was transferring from my power wheelchair to my scooter in the house and I fell forward. My health aide was tired and was resting her head against the doorway with her eyes closed. I fell all the way down hitting my face hard on the floor. My legs got caught under me and I felt more pain than I have ever before in my life. Here I was, flat on the floor, wondering what in the heck I had just done. My left leg hurt the most, but my right leg hurt as well and it was almost too much pain to endure. As my health aide turned me over and helped me sit up I blacked out from the pain. My health aide went in the house to get some help. I was asked if I wanted to go to the hospital and well regrettably I said: “No, I just want to go to bed and everything will be fine tomorrow.” Yes I had been drinking that night, but honestly this was not the reason I fell. I had done this same transfer thousands of times sober, and hundreds of times when drinking. I did not sleep at all and was in pain all night. When my health aid arrived in the morning, getting up and getting into my wheelchair was really painful. This took at least 2 hours as I inched and inched. I told you earlier I am stubborn! Well I got to the hospital around 12:30 pm on Saturday October 13th. I tell them I was in extreme pain and that I thought I hurt my left and right knee. After some X-rays of my left knee they do not see anything, but then I hear: ‘what is that?’ They were pointing at my femur and saw a crack. They took some more X-Rays at various views and determined I had a complete break of my femur. I had a two inch separation between the two broken bones. I was admitted to the hospital at this time. The doctor spoke to me about my broken bone and started talking about surgery right away. He then orders X-rays on my right knee, since he laughed at me for saying I hurt my knee when I actually broke my femur. The X-rays show I broke my Patella and my Tibia on my right leg. He just shook his head and said he has no idea how I endured that pain for that long. Well on Sunday October 14th, I had a 3 1/2 hour surgery on my left leg where a rod was inserted in my femur with screws to hold it. I had lost two pints of blood internally and was told I am very lucky to be alive today as this was a dangerous injury. The doctor said my bones were weak due to the MD and that is the reason I was able to break my femur in such a short fall. I was prescribed a medicine and a vitamin regimen to correct this. This mistake made me appreciate life more and makes me realize how fragile life is.
I was released from the hospital on October 17th. So here I am being released in a manual wheelchair with both legs bandaged up. This was extremely restricting and very worrisome for me. Remember early I asked: Would I lose my strength quicker and be forced to give up my active lifestyle? Well once again I adapted. I started using a Hoyer Lift for my transfers. I had a very long 3-month heal time. I was able to get back into my power wheelchair 2-weeks after being released from the hospital, when I was given a brace for each leg. It was difficult with two braces on, but with many pillows I was able to get comfortable enough to go to work. During this time I needed more assistance than ever and started to have to rely on other people’s help. This was tough on me as I remember how I could do so much for myself. This was my toughest moment in my life. Knowing from this point on I would always have to depend on others for many things. Then months passed, I had no choice except to move forward in this new chapter of my life.
So how dependent am I now after 1 and 1/2 years? Not so much actually. In February of 2008, I moved into a fully handicapped equipped 2-bedroom in-law apartment. Appropriately named the ‘bachelor pad’. This has helped me tremendously. Just to know I am self sufficient with my health aides is an amazing feeling. In this apartment a ceiling track lift is installed. There is a track installed in the ceiling over my bed and in the bathroom. A portable lift is attached to the track and a sling is used to lift me. Lift me up, push me over, and let me down. This makes my transfers quick and easy for me and my caregiver.
On July 16th, 2010 I received a new power wheelchair. This time I went all out and got a Permobil C300 with all power options and a feisty Red Chilli Pepper color. I figured I would go for some style this time. The lady who helped me configure the chair said it was ‘spicy’. I said ‘yes that would be me’. This wheelchair has en elevating seat, so now I can speak to people eye level and this really help with confidence and being heard. I am also now able to sit at a Bar WITH my friends without having a sore neck from looking up all night. The C300 also has elevating leg rests, so I can stretch my legs and work my knees. This has drastically reduced aches in my legs and has improved my circulation. There is also a power recline. The recline gives me the ability to stretch my back and also give my neck, shoulders, and body a rest when it needs. The last function is a power tilt function. The tilt provides a means of tilting the seat back. I primarily use this to make it easier for my health aides to pull my pants up. I also use it when I take a nap in my chair or when I am reading on my Kindle. I was able to enjoy the wheelchair for a week until another mistake.
I was out celebrating my 38th Birthday with friends and family. We met for Sushi first in Severna Park, then headed Downtown for some barhopping. We started at Pusser’s, then went to the Fleet Reserve, then ended the night in O’Brien’s. I was hanging on for quite a while then the shots kept pouring. Everyone was buying me shots and drinks and I was having a blast. On the way to my van the mistake happened. My caregiver was in front of me and I misjudged a turn and went down a curb. I hit it straight on and I was ejected from the chair. I was drunk so I do not remember much of this. Anyways I fell directly on my right knee, tumbled over, and miraculously landed flat on my back without hitting my head. My wheelchair went down the curb and stayed on all four wheels with no damage at all. Some guys were close and they lifted me into my chair. I then got into the van and we drove home. At this point the alcohol and the adrenalin was really setting in and I wanted the night to end. So again..yes again..I went to bed with a serious injury. The next day, July 24th my actual Birthday, I went to the hospital ER and had my leg evaluation. It was determined I had an impacted femur fracture. Luckily the alignment of my femur was not a problem and a brace was used to keep it in position. After 5 weeks of X-ray visits and doctor check-ups I was healed.
This second fall out of my wheelchair was very tough to get over. I was so disappointed in myself for doing something so careless and stupid. This feeling is no longer here, but the lessons I learned are quite evident. I always wear my seat belt in my chair, I try not to carelessly drink anymore, and next time I am hurt off to the ER/doctor I go. There are too many people who love me for me being this careless.
My brother passed away unexpectedly on April 14th, 2013. This was devastating to me. My brother was my best friend, my side-kick, my professor of knowledge, and we lived together our entire lives. There is a void in my heart with him gone, but life must continue. Our bond was unbreakable. I found the strength to overcome his death and have continued on with my happy life just as he would have wanted.
On August 10th, 2013 I had my first gig as DJ GlennDane. I started to learn how to DJ in 2010 and I am continually improving. Nothing will stop me from doing the things I want to in life.
I was diagnosed with the beginning stages of Pneumonia in March of 2017. Antibiotics were diagnosed and I got better, I thought. In June of 2017 the Pneumonia returned. X-ray showed the affected lung in the same place as in March. They gave me stronger antibiotics and again I got better. I went to the doctor and I was told my lungs are working at 30%. Wow I thought. Then the doctor told me that was good. After this doctor visit I later took an overnight sleep study. I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. My next trip to the doctor ended with me being prescribed a CPAP and a Cough Assist machine. CPAP to treat sleep apnea and the Cough Assist to expand my lungs 10% and also to prevent Pneumonia.
In the Summer/Fall of 2017 I volunteered at the John’s Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory to help design and test a Robotic Arm mounted on a wheelchair. The Robotic Arm was designed to be controlled using the Microsoft Halolens Goggles. I went to JHUAPL for a couple of days a week for a few weeks. On October 28, 2017 I took part in a TedXMidAtlantic Talk at the Superpowers Event on October 27-28 in Washington DC. This was a live demonstration in front of 800 people. I loved it! I will put the link to the talk when it is released. This experience has inspired me to start my journey in becoming an Inspirational/Motivational speaker. More information later.
May 2018. Still running the business and doing DJ gigs on the side, my health is good (no Pneumonia), and I am doing well.
The purpose of this biography is to show everyone that even a life of struggle can be a happy and productive one. It takes work, it is not easy, it takes a lot of energy, but in the end it is all worth it! So be strong, overcome your obstacles, and enjoy life! As my motto says: Life is What You Make It. This is a short form biography. I purposely left out many details about dating, interests, adventures, and other personal descriptions.
I have been lagging behind on writing a book and hope to get the inspiration soon to get started. I have been writing this book in my head for years. It is my dream to write a book that will inspire and help people get the mindset to overcome obstacles.
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