BY ERIN POWERS // MAY 3, 2012 //
Underneath a black Red Sox cap, Alex Danahy smiled from ear to ear as he talked about his plans to attend the 2012 home opener at Fenway Park.
“I’ve always loved the sport, since back when I played T-ball,” said Danahy, a native of Hopkinton, Mass., who has his own sports talk program on Curry’s student-run radio station, WMLN.
However, his time on the diamond was short lived. Danahy was born with spina bifida, a birth defect that causes the spinal cord to not develop properly. In Danahy’s case, it greatly impaired his ability to walk, so he has used a wheelchair for most of his life.
Around campus, Danahy, a junior communication major, is lovingly known as “Wheelz.” He said he first got the nickname at age 12 after an argument with a friend. To his chagrin, it stuck. But Danahy has decided to own it, to make it his. His wheelchair is his reality, and there’s no avoiding it. At age 19, Danahy got a tattoo with the words “Life Rolls On” stretching from one shoulder blade to the other.
“I like it now,” said Danahy, 24, of his nickname. “Even some of my teachers would call me it.”
He has undergone 24 major surgeries over the course of his life, and is preparing for yet another one this June. The procedure will remove a shunt in Danahy’s back that essentially “shut down” years ago and has since been an unnecessary, and often painful, piece of hardware in his body.
The surgery will leave Danahy bed-ridden for six weeks, but that’s nothing new. He said his youth and high school years were nothing short of a horizontal uphill climb due to numerous surgeries and rehabilitation periods. During his sophomore year of high school, Danahy was tutored from home for three months and was allowed to attend only half days for the first two months of his junior year.
“There used to be a foam couch that followed me from class to class,” said Danahy with a roll of his eyes. “They even made me use it at my prom!”
He is quick to give credit to family, friends and sports for getting him through his darkest hours. He also an active member of the Michael Carter Lisnow Respite Center, located in Hopkinton, a nonprofit that provides families with disabled children emotional and physical support. Danahy got a job at the Center at age 14 and continues his involvement today. He’s currently a member of the group’s Boston Marathon committee and was recently dubbed captain of the wheelchair division.
Despite Danahy’s consistent medical struggles, he routinely maintains a positive attitude and his sense of humor. He can often be found on campus sporting a T-shirt that reads “I’m in it for the parking.” Danahy owns a specially designed car that enables him to drive using various hand controls for acceleration and breaking. But Danahy is quick to point out that he wasn’t always this easy going.
At age 15, “I was the most miserable kid you would have ever met,” he said. “Even my friends would tell me how much my attitude sucked. Eventually, I started making light of situations. The more I did that, the better I felt. I decided I needed to be less of an asshole and more of a smart-ass.”
That perspective has won him the admiration of students throughout campus.
“Wheelz is hilarious, and his life-rolls-on attitude is awesome,” said Tiffany Renert, a senior communication major. “He’s known around campus for a reason: he’s a great guy.”