Two years ago, over Memorial Day weekend, Dallas Jordan Disbro was in the hospital recovering from SCI. Today he is living independently, working at his old job and riding the high of organizing a hugely successful fundraiser for his local chapter of United Spinal.
“It’s crazy,” says Disbro. “I’m just someone who keeps so busy that time flies. I’m very active and always doing different things. It’s kind of crazy how fast time goes.”
Time didn’t seem to be going so fast in the immediate wake of Disbro’s injury. After hundreds of successful dives as a collegiate diver, one freak dive off a dock damaged his C5 vertebra and stuck him in a hospital watching his friends enjoy the start of summer. “The toughest weekend for me, knowing where everyone was at and where I would have been, was the Fourth of July,” he says.
Disbro resolved to look forward and stay positive from that point on and saw an immediate uptick in his rehab. Despite both sides of his body functioning totally differently, his left side lagging way behind his right, Disbro relearned to stand and walk a little with crutches. More importantly, he gained the skills to move directly from rehab into a situation where he was living independently.
“That’s literally all I wanted,” says Disbro. “My parents wanted me to move back to North Carolina for a little bit or they wanted to stay with me, and that was not part of my plan. I moved into an awesome apartment complex in Washington, D.C.”
Thanks to supportive managers who helped push for the accommodations he needed, Disbro was back at work as a financial advisor for Merrill Lynch in April, less than a year after his injury. “I was anxious to get back to work after rehab and it turned out to be easy,” he says. “All I needed was voice recognition software and an updated schedule.” He recently celebrated his first year back by posting what may be his best quarter yet. “I’ve really been pushing,” he says.
That pushing hasn’t been limited to self-improvement. Feeling a strong need to give back and help others in the SCI/D community, Disbro signed on to be the treasurer for the Washington, D.C., chapter of United Spinal. The opportunity to apply his business skills and personal experience was a perfect fit. “There’s just so much room for growth, so much room for improvement,” he says. “Between Harsh [Thakkar, the chapter president] and I, we’re really making moves,” he says. “We are working on getting more member engagement with our chapter through events, fundraisers and mentoring groups. It’s exciting getting more people involved and active in the local SCI community.”
On February 25, the Metro DC Chapter held Wheel 2 Win, a 3-on-3 wheelchair basketball tournament and the chapter’s first big fundraiser since Disbro came on as treasurer. The all-day Sunday event, held at Yates Field House at Georgetown University, drew 20 teams of three to five players and was a huge success. “I couldn’t believe how well it went,” says Disbro. “We want this to become an annual event for years to come and keep getting bigger. It was a lot of stress, a lot of work, but it was so worth it.”
The money raised will support the local wheelchair basketball team, the organization and scholarships for people in the community with SCI/D who need them.
Disbro is proud of how far he has come in the last two years but isn’t content. “I want to be as successful as I can within my career and also when it comes to impacting or inspiring lives,” he says.
Off the Clock
New Ways to Play
“I used to be a big dancer, and not being able to dance on my feet is definitely the number one thing I miss. For a while I worried that I couldn’t be in a relationship with someone who didn’t know me before my injury because it was so important to me that they knew how I danced. I still have a great time doing 360s and wheelies and those types of things, but I was so light on my feet and I liked to swing dance and flip girls around.
This past July, I got together with a bunch of friends in Ibiza. I used to live in Spain and I studied there. This was my first time back since my injury. We had a big party and it was tough not being able to run on the beach and dance with all my friends. But my friends are great and have been an amazing support system. They said, ‘No, you are coming with us!’ They’d just pick me up, or I’d piggy back on them, and they made sure I did almost everything with them.
For a while it was so important to me that people knew who I was before and how actively I lived my life, but then I came to realize that people see me as the same Dallas whether I’m in a chair or not.”
I’m not really good at clenching my legs to hold a drink or whatnot, so I actually have dual KneeRover cup holders on both sides of my chair ($14.99 on Amazon).
Navigating the World:
I joke all the time, and I find it helps make people comfortable, and then they are more open to conversation.
Why I Joined United Spinal:
A lot of people raised money for me after my injury, and I wanted to start a nonprofit for people who didn’t have financial support or health insurance to get what they needed. I found out there was already a United Spinal chapter near me, got in touch and signed on to head its fundraising committee.