Dahlia: Hospital PUSH raises $475,000 for research

May 28, 2003

pictureIn December 2000, Don Digby, owner of Colorado's largest trucking company, Navajo Shippers, was hot-dogging on his all-terrain vehicle when disaster struck.

"I was doing just about everything that I taught my kids not to do," said Digby.

A horrific crash left him with a broken neck and a broken back. He was bedridden for four months with a halo screwed into his head.

The prognosis wasn't good, and the word quadriplegic came to mind as Digby began his recovery at Craig Hospital.
Two years later, Digby was back on his feet and, much to the dismay of wife Lydia, back on a motorcycle.

But Digby is a safe rider now, and his wife's dismay gave way to glee as she vowed their eternal support to Craig Hospital.
Their backing was shared by 700 other guests at the second annual PUSH for the Cure fund-raiser at the Marriott Tech Center, which raised more than $475,000 for the hospital's spinal-cord and brain injury research programs.

The only thing missing from the fete was the honorary chairman, Colorado Avalanche center Peter Forsberg, who had planned on being at the original dinner, scheduled during Denver's March blizzard.

Forsberg was in Sweden playing in the World Hockey Championships, but his friends showed their support, such as Avalanche head coach Tony Granato, director of hockey operations Eric Lacroix and goaltending consultant Craig Billington.

Granato helped the emcee, News4 anchor Stephanie Riggs, in the live auction, pawning off a Forsberg jersey for $8,500.

Other supporters included Fuller & Co. executives Don Kortz, 2003 dinner chairman, and inaugural PUSH chairman and founder Arthur Seiden.

Seiden started the fund-raiser as a tribute to Craig's staff and his wife, Julie, an accomplished rider who fell from her horse seven years ago and suffered a serious spinal-cord injury, which was compounded by a stroke.

Craig Hospital President Denny O'Malley believes proceeds from PUSH will help find a cure for brain and spine injuries such as Julie's, with the help of staff members such as chief neurological consultant Dr. Scott Falci and medical director Dr. Dan Lamertse.

Until a cure is found, O'Malley will continue his 29-year stint at the helm of the hospital to keep the research efforts going for former and current Craig patients, a few of whom were on hand.

Former patient Rolf Funk, who attended with his wife, Nora, became a quadriplegic after a skiing accident. He was treated at Craig and is back on the slopes.

Current patient Barbara Jewell and her husband, Keith, were celebrating her last week of therapy following a January accident in which the car she was riding in plummeted 450 feet down the side of a mountain in Idaho. Jewell went from being bedridden, hooked up to a ventilator and a feeding tube, to a wheelchair and now will join Craig's walking program.

Former patient Melissa Holley took part in a clinical trial in Israel to attempt to reverse her paralysis. The first U.S. site for the trial will be Craig Hospital, thanks to study sponsor Proneuron Inc. of Tel Aviv.

Holley is back at Craig, but this time it's to help. She was offered a public relations and communications internship for the summer.

For more information about Craig Hospital's services, call (303) 789-8800.Dahlia Jean Weinstein is the society writer. weinsteind@RockyMountain News.com or (303) 892-2882.