When a 14-year-old soccer player gets injured, it’s safe to assume they rolled their ankle. Or they pulled a muscle. Or worst case, they tore a knee ligament. Suffering a spinal stroke in the middle of the field? No way.
Danny Smuts of Mission Hills, San Diego, collapsed during the second half of a soccer game in 2015 at just 14 years old, and he hasn’t walked since. “I knew as soon as I fell it wasn’t an ordinary injury,” he says. And it wasn’t. He inexplicably had a T-7 level spinal stroke, which struck the bottom of his ribcage, stunting blood flow and killing nerve cells. In an instant, Danny was transformed from a star athlete feared by opponents for his speed, to a paraplegic who would never walk again.