Community rallies around boy paralyzed by illness

Courtesy photoSeabrook 13-year old Dan Dugan sits in his wheelchair with his dog Braxelbeans, outside the rehabilitation center in Boston as he works to regain use of his legs. Friends will host a fund raiser for him from 4 to 8 p.m. on Nov. 10 at Michael’s Harborside.

SEABROOK, N.H. — Friends from both sides of the state line are rallying to raise money for Seabrook, New Hampshire, youngster Danny Dugan, who’s been sidelined for more than a month by an illness that has caused the paralysis of his lower body. 

According to family friend Janice Syphers, 13-year-old Danny was moved to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital last week after being hospitalized at Floating Hospital for Children since early October. Syphers has organized a fundraiser for the family that will take place on Monday, Nov. 10, at Michael’s Harborside restaurant from 4 to 8 p.m.

“Michael’s Harborside will donate a portion of all the food sales in the dining room and takeout orders from 4 to 8 p.m. to the Dan Dugan Fund,” Syphers said. “We’re selling raffle tickets for a pair of Patriots tickets and the drawing will be Monday night. And we have a lot of other raffle prizes, too, gift certificates, baskets and ‘Wicked Tuna’ T-shirts.”

The son of Patrick Dugan, owner of Pat’s Towing of Seabrook, Dan and his dad have spent many hours at her home over the years, Syphers said.

“Danny’s just a wonderful boy; he has a real passion for fishing,” she said. “Danny has a long road ahead of him. So does his family.” 

According to Syphers, Danny was hospitalized on Oct. 2 after being ill at home for a while with flu-like symptoms. It was when he began showing evidence of a spreading paralysis that he was taken to the Boston hospital. Initially, she said, suspicions were that he had been struck by the enterovirus D68, which can cause paralysis and which has been confirmed in a number of other cases in the Granite State.

“The family is waiting for results of tests to see if this is the enterovirus D68,” Syphers said. “With the paralysis, Danny has polio-like symptoms.”

In addition to his illness, Danny also lost his mother last weekend. According to the posting made by his father and stepmother, Kate, breaking that news wasn’t easy.

“This past Monday, we were faced with one of the hardest conversations that we could have ever imagined we would have to have,” they wrote. “As he processed her death, we are mindful of his emotional needs but are forced to continue to address his physical limitations.”

According to his parents, Danny is struggling to regain function in his legs, but the therapy is both physically and mentally exhausting. There are positive signs, but his long-term prospects for recovery are still unsure. 

While the hope is that the paralysis will recede, but until it does, expenses are mounting, she said. There’s the need for special equipment and treatment, as well as making alterations to the Dugan home to accommodate the possibility of his return in a wheelchair.

“I had a brother in a wheelchair,” Syphers said. “I know what could be ahead of them. It’s a lot.”

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