Bringing home the gold: Danielle Kanas accepts no limits

Wednesday, August 10, 2016
Danielle Kanas

For as long as she can remember, Danielle Kanas has been a member of the Shriners Hospitals for Children family. The 11-year-old Tampa resident and rising sixth grader at Martinez Middle School in Lutz became a Shriners Hospitals patient as a toddler, shortly after coming from China to the United States and settling in New Jersey with her adoptive mother, JoAnne Kanas.

In her infancy, Danielle was found at a train station. After she was left at an orphanage, doctors surmised the circulation in her left arm had somehow been compromised, causing irreversible damage to her left hand and the lower part of her arm below the elbow. As a result, both impaired areas had to be amputated.

Over the years, Danielle has received multiple prostheses, as well as occupational therapy beginning at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Philadelphia and now at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Tampa, a place where she knows many of the medical staff and other patients by name. “She’s home and she’s comfortable when she’s there,” her mom said.

In addition, being a single-arm amputee has mattered little to Danielle outside the four walls of the hospital. “She is a very determined young lady,” said Andy Chasanoff, coach of Danielle’s Paralympic Sport Tampa Bay team. “She wants to make the most of her abilities. She is always upbeat and positive.”

Danielle’s can-do attitude shined during her team’s recent participation in the National Junior Disability Championships (NJDC), where Danielle captured 15 gold medals and set a new national record in 13 of the events. Some of the events Danielle competed in included discus, shot put, the long jump and her favorite – javelin. “One of the great things about Danielle is she doesn’t compete for the medals or to set records,” Chasanoff said. “She just goes out there wanting to do better than she did before. For the intrinsic reward of knowing she did her personal best.”

The girl whom Chasanoff describes as “one of the most well-rounded kids I know,” is also more than just an athlete. She’s a straight “A” student, a Girl Scout and a guitar player. She played the Star-Spangled Banner on July 5 at the Walk for LOVE™, one of the major events that took place during the 142nd Shriners International Imperial Session that was hosted in Tampa, Florida.

Thomas Coffey, a former University of South Florida guitar professor, is Danielle’s guitar teacher. She is his first student with a prosthetic arm. “It could be a challenge, but to see a person who is so willing to practice and do what it takes to learn is just really wonderful,” Coffey said.

JoAnne Kanas is Shriners Hospitals for Children corporate director of orthotics and prosthetics, and whose office is located at Shriners International headquarters in Tampa. As such, she is especially privy to the state-of-the-art prostheses and tremendously skilled personnel in the Tampa Shriners Hospital's Pediatric Orthotic and Prosthetic Services – Southeast, LLC department, which she claims is probably one of the busiest of its kind in the country. “They are a fabulous department, a wonderful group, and they make a lot of orthotic and prosthetic devices,” she said.

Danielle is just simply grateful for the top-notch care and heartfelt concern for her well-being that she has received at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Tampa, which specializes in treating youngsters with orthopaedic conditions, regardless of the families’ ability to pay. “Everyone is so friendly and kind,” she said, adding that Shriners Hospitals has made a huge difference in the way she views her own life. “I know now that there are more people with disabilities in the world, and it’s not just me.”

It’s clear that Danielle’s limb difference makes no difference, and that her no limits attitude inspires her to be a better athlete, student, musician and all around  better person. Like many of the patients at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Tampa, she continues to defy the odds, and we can’t wait to see what she does next.

Danielle Kanas