Donna Hansen

Donna Hansen is on the move in retirement. Relaxing wasn’t her post-career goal.

Finishing her 39th and final year in special education, though, proved more than a small challenge for the longtime Grand Forks special educator.
NDAD helped her move quickly to meet the challenge through its Healthcare Equipment Loan Program (HELP).

While walking from a faculty parking lot to Central High School the morning of Jan. 27, 2017, Donna was struck in a crosswalk by car driven by a student. “I saw her three-quarters of a block back, but the roads weren’t slippery so I thought she should be able to stop, and I’ve got a green light and a walk sign.” Donna recalled.

“I remember looking at the walk sign and heading across, and all of a sudden I see a bumper coming at me. I literally went up in the air and did a 180 and came down on my hands and knees.”

Now she chuckles at the irony of the moment. “I spent 39 years teaching pedestrian safety” to children, teens and young adults in special education, she said.

Donna’s left leg’s tibia – the shinbone, below the knee and above the ankle – was fractured. Better that leg, she said, “because on the right one I’d just had a hip replacement a year and a half before that.”

NDAD gave her mobility she needed
Though she’s left with some nerve damage from the car’s impact and some pain below her left knee, the reconstructive surgery and subsequent physical therapy were successful. 

“I have a little hitch to my giddy-up, but it works. That’s all that matters. I can walk. That’s the most important thing.”

Leg surgery came several weeks after the accident, when the leg’s swelling finally was down.

The downside:  the surgeon had to re-break the bone, which had started to heal.

Ultimately, she gained a supportive steel plate, held with 10 screws, during the Valentine’s Day leg surgery.

“It was great,” Donna said, chuckling. “My husband was with me all day. It’d been a long time since we had that day together.”

Donna contacted NDAD’s Grand Forks office “almost when I was in having surgery,” she recalled, when she knew what she’d need.

Through NDAD’s HELP, which provides free, short-term equipment loans, Donna borrowed a portable ramp, toilet safety frame and a manual wheelchair.

Donna already owned a cane and walker used after her hip replacement surgery.

About six weeks after leg surgery, Donna borrowed a scooter from NDAD and set up DialA-Ride accessible transportation and returned to work.

“They were lifesavers,” she said. “You know, if it weren’t for them, there’s no way I could have gone anywhere.” NDAD’s Grand Forks staff “is just outstanding,” Donna said.  “There was never any question. It was just, ‘if there’s a need, yep, we have it. Yep, you can get it.’”

Retirement life
In better health once again, Donna travels when she’s able. She attended 2017's famed New Mexico international hot air balloon festival, and she spent early March 2018 in Dallas for the nation’s second-oldest Irish music festival.  In-between, she says, there’s been more trips and lots of joy, especially with husband, David, newly retired after 44 years with UPS; and their nine grandchildren.

“That’s my retirement plan,” Donna said with a grand smile. “They’re very important to me, and I want to be a part of their lives.”

But she isn’t forgetting many other young lives that she’s been able to help in a career capped when she attended Central High’s graduation ceremony in an NDAD manual wheelchair and saw two special needs students from her final class get their diplomas in person.

“I was going to teach ‘the gifted’” Donna recalled of her career, chuckling.  “And I think I did, for 39 years.” Donna won’t be retiring the memories.

- Mike Brue 

From the Winter 2018 edition of NDAD Insider