Daniel's Music: One Family's Journey from Tragedy to Empowerment through Faith, Medicine, and the Healing Power of Music

Daniel's Music: One Family's Journey from Tragedy to Empowerment through Faith, Medicine, and the Healing Power of Music

by Jerome Preisler


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In 1997, Daniel Trush, a bright, active, outgoing twelve-year-old, collapsed on the basketball court and fell into a deep coma. Rushed to the hospital, he was found to have five previously undetected aneurysms in his brain. One had burst, causing a massive cerebral hemorrhage.

While Daniel remained comatose, the uncontrolled pressure inside his skull caused him to suffer multiple strokes. Tests showed that his brain functions had flat-lined, and doctors would soon tell his parents his chances of survival were slim to none—or that he'd likely remain in a vegetative state.

But the doctors were wrong.

Daniel’s traumatic injury did not bring his life to a premature end. Thirty days after lapsing into a coma, he would return to consciousness, barely able to blink or smile. Two years later, he took his first extraordinary steps out of a wheelchair. A decade after being sped to the emergency room, Daniel Trush completed the New York Marathon.

But his incredible journey into the future had just begun. With music having played a crucial role in his recovery, Danny and his family launched Daniel’s Music Foundation, a groundbreaking nonprofit organization for people with disabilities. In time DMF would be honored on a Broadway stage by the New York Yankees, gaining notoriety and admiration across America.

Daniel’s Music is the gripping story of Daniel’s recovery against odds experts said were insurmountable; of medical science, faith, and perseverance combining for a miracle; and of an average family turning their personal trials into a force that brings joy, inspiration, and a powerful sense of belonging to all those whose lives they touch.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781632206701
Publisher: Skyhorse
Publication date: 03/03/2015
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Jerome Preisler is the New York Times bestselling author of over thirty novels and nonfiction titles, including Code Name Caesar: The Secret Hunt for U-Boat 864 During World War II and All Hands Down: The True Story of the Soviet Attack on the USS Scorpion. His most recent book is NET FORCE: CODE WAR, a relaunch of the bestselling series created by Tom Clancy. A regular contributor to the New York Yankees’ YESNetwork.com since 2004, Preisler has spearheaded the website’s acclaimed coverage of the Yankees’ annual HOPE Week community outreach effort. He lives in New York City.

Read an Excerpt


Two Weeks Earlier

Sunday started out picture perfect. It was mild for early March, a morning washed with brilliant sunshine, the air clear, crisp, and invigorating as Ken took his regular jog through Central Park. He loved the areas circling the reservoir for their tranquility, the quiet, tree-lined stillness helping him stay centered amid his fast-paced professional routine. He also thought of the park as New York's great social equalizer. You could pass a millionaire celebrity or an hourly wage worker and never know the difference. People were people. What they did for a living and the amount they earned didn't deter them from sharing the same paths. Something about that deeply appealed to him, though he might not have been able to explain why.

A tall, lean, athletic man in his early forties, Ken was doing quite well in his own career. His successful financial consultancy handled accounting and tax work for about ten privately held companies, among them Agency.com, an aggressive pioneer in the field of website development and online marketing. On the verge of an international expansion, its founders, Chan Suh and Kyle Shannon, had come to rely heavily on his input, effectively making him their outsourced chief financial officer.

Dedicated to advancing Agency's corporate growth, Ken had recently traveled to London to work on an overseas deal — his first trip abroad, and one that had by turns induced excitement and nervousness. But his first priority was his family, and he'd reserved this weekend for them. Though they had been out late attending a bar mitzvah in New Jersey, the Trushes were looking ahead to a full, active day together. Around noon, Ken and Nancy were bringing their younger son, Michael, along to Danny's basketball clinic at The Dalton School Physical Education Center, on East 89th Street where they would cheer from the sidelines as usual. Next up was lunch at McDonald's; the restaurant was holding a Monopoly game promotion, and the boys were eager to collect its advertised giveaways. Finally, Ken, Danny, and Michael could hardly wait to watch that evening's big New York Knicks game on television.

Mostly because of the game, Danny's coach, Teddy Frischling, would always remember the date: March 9, 1997. This was the year after Michael Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to a playoff victory over the Knicks, and the Bulls were in town for a feverishly hyped matchup at Madison Square Garden. Teddy would also recall that he'd made dinner reservations for his mom and himself at the Lenox Room, a posh Upper Eastside restaurant where he was taking her to celebrate her birthday. He had anticipated checking the game score often throughout their meal, but it would turn out to be the last thing on his mind.

Frischling had founded his hoops program two years before and called it Dribbl, an acronym for the Dalton recreational instructional basketball league. The athletic director at Dalton, he'd separated the program from the prep school's auspices shortly after getting it off the ground. Through a special arrangement with the school, however, he continued to use the gym facilities a couple of blocks south of the main building, teaching neighborhood boys and girls fundamentals of the game and good sportsmanship, holding weekend sessions there for different age groups.

Daniel Trush was one of Frischling's seventh-grade students at Dalton, and also one of his Dribbl kids. A lively, rail-thin boy of twelve with eyes that matched the color of his tussled, dark brown hair, he was outgoing, curious, and as quick to laugh at a joke as tell one. Besides sharing his father's love of hoops — Ken had started on the junior varsity team at UConn and also played varsity at Baruch for two years — Danny had a strong affinity for music and played a couple of instruments. Guitar was one, trumpet the other. While far from a basketball prodigy, he was a decent, enthusiastic athlete who worked hard in the gym and was receptive to instruction.

Danny had stayed home from school a few times the week before Sunday's Dribbl session. Frischling knew he'd been under the weather, but he wasn't sure what was wrong with him nor had the slightest premonition that it might be serious. From what he'd heard it was a cold, a headache, something of that nature. As a teacher, you got used to kids catching minor bugs. They came on in a hurry, lingered briefly, and passed without much ado.

In fact, Danny had started experiencing headaches of varying severity in early February. These bouts would usually occur in the morning and then again around bedtime. Soon after their onset, Ken and Nancy had grown concerned enough to make two or three separate appointments with his pediatrician, hoping to find out what was wrong. The doctor had given him blood tests and basic neurological exams, but nothing out of the ordinary turned up. A mild virus might have been the culprit, he suggested. That could sometimes bring on migraines. Thinking stress another possible cause, he asked Danny's parents whether the boy was under any unusual school or family pressures.

The Trushes had told him they didn't think so. He didn't seem nervous or troubled to them. The headaches aside, he was as upbeat and engaged as ever. They'd always striven to provide a calm, supportive home environment for the boys, with open lines of communication. They felt sure they would have known if Danny had something out of the ordinary weighing on him.

Ken and Nancy had held Danny out of class for a few days after his doctor's visit, wanting to keep close tabs on him. During that period, the headaches had subsided, and Ken and Nancy had grown optimistic that he was just about over them. He'd gone to a few recent birthday and bar mitzvah celebrations that had kept him up late, maybe spent too much time with his video games. His parents suspected these things could have combined to leave him a bit fatigued.

By late February, Danny felt well enough to resume his regular class schedule. His condition so dramatically improved, in fact, that Ken was comfortable traveling to England for a round of business meetings.

But Danny's symptoms were about to recur with a vengeance. On Saturday, Ken called Nancy from London to check in with her before his scheduled flight home. Her voice was distressed over the phone. Daniel had a headache and fever again, she told him. He'd also been very nauseous; his stomach couldn't hold anything down. Ken tried to be reassuring, but he was anxious about his son the whole time he was in the air.

When he arrived home after 11 p.m., Danny was worse, and his soaring temperature prompted his parents to alert his pediatrician by phone. He agreed to see Daniel in the morning, recommending they give him a Tylenol and keep an eye on him overnight. Hopefully he would feel better after some bed rest.

Ken took the doctor's advice. That night Daniel climbed into bed with him while Nancy joined Mike in the boys' room.

Danny slept fitfully beside Ken, running a constant fever, getting sicker as the hours wore on. Then before Sunday had dawned, he awoke with an unbearable pain between his temples.

"My head feels like it's going to explode," he groaned.

Ken would later say these were the keywords for him and Nancy, the words that decided things. They had held off long enough.

They quickly got Danny dressed, Ken calling the pediatrician at home to inform him that he was bringing his son to the hospital. It was now about three o'clock in the morning, and the doctor, roused out of bed, agreed the boy had to be examined without delay. The Trushes were not ones to panic.

With Nancy staying behind to watch their younger son, Ken hurried out into the cold twilight, carrying Danny half a block from the building entrance to flag down an empty cab. The nearest ER was almost a mile south of their apartment and Daniel was in agony.

"We're heading to Lenox Hill Hospital," Ken told the driver. "The emergency room."

Traffic was sparse at that hour, and they were at the hospital in minutes. The triage nurse gave Danny a mild analgesic to swallow and instructed that they sit in the waiting room until the doctor on call was ready for them.

They spent almost two hours in the room's hard plastic chairs. When he finally saw the doctor, Danny had begun to feel better, but Ken reminded him to describe the excruciating pain he'd been in after waking up. That prompted the doctor to give him essentially the same neurological exam he'd gotten from his pediatrician back in February — routine tests for strength, reflexes, gait, eye movement, visual range and acuity, and other indications of a brain disorder. Again, the boy's results were fine. The doctor concurred with the pediatrician's assessment that his symptoms were probably common migraines, and sent Danny and his father on their way.

It was almost seven o'clock in the morning when they got back home. Danny still had a lingering headache, but it continued to fade throughout the day. As a precaution, Ken and Nancy phoned his pediatrician to ask for a referral to a neurologist, picked up the authorization early that week, and were able to make an appointment for the following Tuesday. In the section of the form he filled out to explain Danny's problem to the consulting physician, the pediatrician simply jotted: Migraine headaches?

His appointment still a full week off, Daniel returned to school Wednesday and seemed entirely recovered from whatever had been ailing him. Teddy Frischling thought he seemed pretty normal in gym class. Frischling had a shootaround drill in which he picked three boys from the group at random to take shots from different areas on the court. It was a fun exercise for them, and the reward if all three hit their shots was that the entire group could skip instruction and play a game right away.

The first two boys succeeded, with Danny up last for the decisive shot from the top of the key.

He stepped to the line. A bounce, another, and then he set his feet and ... swoosh. It fell in. That sealed it for the boys. Game time. But not before they had a chance to swarm Danny as if he was a conquering hero, hike him up onto their shoulders, and carry him around the court. It was something else Teddy Frischling never forgot about that week.

With Daniel feeling fine Saturday, the Trushes went to the bar mitzvah at the Jersey Shore, hopping aboard a charter bus that took them to and from the affair. There was a video arcade next to the reception hall, and when Danny went in to play some games with his friends, Ken noticed that he was having a blast. He seemed back to his energetic, wisecracking self.

The following day Danny was back at the Dalton Phys. Ed. Center for Dribbl. Still in its infancy, the program didn't have a huge enrollment, and the 26-year-old Frischling and fellow coach Doug Feinberg were in the fifth-floor gym with no more than ten boys, the kids playing full court across its width, using two baskets NBA-style.

Ken, Nancy, and Michael were on the first level of the bleachers, facing one of the baskets as the game entered its fourth quarter. They felt good watching Danny have so much fun; it was a reassurance after his recent bouts of illness. He was hustling across the court with the ball and seemed completely back to normal, showing no sign of pain, fatigue, or discomfort.

Then in a heartbeat, everything changed. With Frischling watching from midcourt, Danny took a jump shot from the left side of the key and missed. As the ball rebounded, he threw his hands up to his head and held it between them.

Ken's first thought was that his son was upset about the missed basket ... which didn't make much sense. Danny wasn't temperamental and had never carried on about that sort of thing. But Ken only had a moment to process what was happening. He would never be able to adequately describe his feeling of dreamlike unreality as Danny turned to face him, still holding his temples. Never remember coming down off the bleachers to meet him on the court. Just Danny running toward him with his hands to his head as if to prevent it from blowing to pieces.

Then Danny slumped into his arms.

"Teddy!" Ken was screaming his name from the sideline. "Teddy, come here!"

Frischling bolted across the court. Meanwhile, Nancy and Michael had already reached Danny. Out the corner of his eye, Mike noticed some of the other kids still shooting around on the other side of the gym and instantly got upset at them. What were they doing over by the baskets? Why hadn't the game come to a halt? Danny was his idol. Though he sometimes gave Mike a hard time like any big brother, he was always the first one to stand up for him when he needed it. Now he was sprawled out on the floor, helpless. Didn't those kids realize what was going on?

Of course Michael had focused on his brother from the sideline their heads in the game, the other boys just thought he'd taken a spill.

Glancing down at Danny as Ken eased his limp form to the floor, Frischling made no such mistake. The boy had lost consciousness in his father's arms, retching, his right leg spasming. He was having some kind of seizure.

As a teacher, Frischling had seen kids in his classes get dizzy or pass out from hyperventilation, fevers, and even allergic reactions. Usually the underlying conditions were minor, and the kids came to without serious consequence. Yet Frischling thought this seemed different, more severe.

After a moment Danny threw up, and Frischling's worries increased. Turning to Ken and Nancy, he realized they were afraid Danny might choke on his vomit. In the confusion, he didn't know whether they said something about it or if it came across from their expressions and body language.

"As long as you angle his head so he doesn't swallow, he'll be okay," he said, trying to reassure himself as much as Ken and Nancy.

One of them turned Daniel's head sideways. His mind flashing to CPR techniques he'd learned in a course for teachers, Frischling sent Feinberg to call an ambulance from his third floor office. Ken also rushed down to it, barely aware of the assistant coach, hastening in ahead of him to grab the telephone and frantically dial 911.

Upstairs with Daniel, Frischling continued to mentally replay the resuscitation procedures he'd practiced in his yearly refresher sessions. He'd never applied them in a real-life emergency and prayed he would get them right if they were necessary.

He was spared ever having to find out. An emergency services vehicle arrived within a few short minutes, the technicians racing over to where Danny lay sprawled on the hardwood. Slowly, carefully, they lifted him onto a gurney. With Frischling and the Trushes watching, they took his baseline vitals.

"I think it's the left side of his brain," Frischling told them. He was fighting to stay composed, his tongue stumbling over the words. "His right side ..."

Frischling might or might not have let the sentence trail, he wasn't sure, and didn't even know for certain what had prompted it. He still hadn't grasped the seriousness of Danny's condition. But he knew the brain's left hemisphere generally controlled motor functions on the right side of the body, where Danny's leg was having spasms. It was information he'd wanted to share with the techs.

His parents and brother at his side, Danny was wheeled out through a hallway into an elevator and down to the waiting ambulance. As it sped toward Lenox Hill — the same hospital Ken had brought him to the previous week — he seemed to be coming around, and one of the EMTs started asking him a series of hurried questions to test his level of awareness. What day was it? What had he been doing at the gym? How did he feel?

Danny gave the correct answers and explained that he had an intense, throbbing pain in his head. His lucid responses gave Ken a small spark of hope that he was returning to normal ... that this latest episode would pass like the others.

Ten minutes after leaving Dalton, the ambulance screamed up to the Lenox Hill emergency room's entrance, and Danny was rushed inside to triage. His head was still hurting badly, but he remained coherent and aware of his surroundings.

Things would change for the worse in a heartbeat. As one of the doctors took a blood sample from Daniel's right arm, his eyes rolled into his head and sunk deep into their sockets. Then he started to convulse again. Ken was overcome with renewed horror and disbelief. They were losing Danny; he could see the life being sucked out of him by whatever was causing his seizures.

In a daze, Ken and Nancy were hustled outside by several nurses, more doctors and aides pouring into the room amid overlapping shouts of "STAT!" Three of them converged around Danny, working to save his life.

None of it could be happening, Ken thought. Except it was.


Excerpted from "Daniel's Music"
by .
Copyright © 2013 Jerome Preisler, the Trush family, and Blessed With Adversity, Inc..
Excerpted by permission of Skyhorse Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

PART I: Off-Road,
PART II: Miracles on Thirty-Fourth Street,
PART III: The Quiet Time,
PART IV: Marathon Mom (and Chicken Soup),
PART V: Hope and Beyond,

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