Long road ahead for Daniels Family

Allen and Brenda Daniels. / Photo by Jenny Huggins
Jenny Huggins
News Reporter

Allen Daniels, 21, of Poteau survived a devastating car crash on April 21 when he was traveling home from the University of Oklahoma to surprise his mom, Brenda Daniels, and attend a meeting about his position as team leader for a mission trip to Indonesia.

Allen was in his second year of training to be a mechanical engineer. He could often be found helping classmates with their vehicles, playing his beloved guitar and spreading the word of God.

“He had the calling of God to share the love and life of Christ with everyone around him,” Brenda said. “The trooper said he knew something was special about Allen when they opened his backpack and saw five books about how to help people using Jesus."

Allen’s car was blown off of the road on the Dwight Mission Overpass, throwing him into a gully and hitting a tree with full force.

Due to the weather, Allen could not be life-flighted and had to endure two separate ambulance rides before he eventually was taken to St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa. He spent six weeks there, then 16 more weeks of rehabilitation at the Children’s Neurological Center.

Allen underwent facial surgery during this time. The steering wheel snapped off his upper jaw and forced it up into his head. Allen sustained five traumatic brain injuries and Brenda was told that when his head hit the windshield, it was the equivalent of 15 mini-strokes to his brain. He required 89 stitches and has two metal plates in his head.

Since then, Brenda and Allen have been homebound. Brenda is unable to leave Allen’s side for more than a minute due to the need for saliva suction and other vital medical needs. “I can’t cook because it takes me away from Allen too long,” Brenda said. “Things that most people don’t think about. I can’t rake my leaves or plant my flowers. There’s no one else to sit with him.”

Allen’s recovery is not over yet, but it is in jeopardy. Brenda has not been able to work as a speech language pathologist since the day of the accident. With the amount of care needed, she won’t be going back to work anytime soon. Brenda has been solely responsible for Allen’s care for months.

“You have to be able to read his facial expressions to know what he wants and needs,” she said. “I’m homebound until we can find someone to sit with him who can learn and read his facial expressions.”

Allen is able to respond to questions with his hands and Brenda is attempting to teach him sign language. He had zero vision at first and now has limited sight in a limited field of vision.

The physical therapy director from Carl Albert State College goes to their home and helps Allen get stronger. He was able to be upright at a 70-degree angle without needing saliva suctioning which Brenda is pleased about. His left hand was once frozen but now, Allen can be seen attempting to play air guitar with the hand. He agreed that the music plays in his head and it comes out of his hand.

Brenda said she is supposed to get him up from his bed three times a day but with no help, a bad back and carpal tunnel syndrome, she does her best to get him up once a day. It’s hard for them to put on the hard plastic boots that Allen must wear to help his feet due to Allen’s legs now moving, him having a dystonic reflex on his right leg and him being incredibly strong.

“His strength is what saved him,” Brenda said. “He was in weightlifting, he worked out with the Marines, personal fitness, Judo and kickboxing.” A doctor told her his strength helped him survive the crash. “If it had been me, I wouldn’t have survived because I’m not as strong,” Brenda said. “The background on his phone, before it finally died, said, ‘Work hard, be disciplined and don’t give up.'"

That load is about to be much harder as Brenda was just informed that since Allen turned 21 on Nov. 27, he would not be receiving any more state food assistance. One box of formula costs $1,200. Allen is fed through a feeding tube on a liquid diet from Coram Food Co., but that will stop coming. Brenda said she’s been told that his insurance was maxed out, Medicare was out of funds and Soonercare was over due to his age.

The only help Allen Daniels will receive is 12 hours of personal care nursing when one is available. According to Brenda, Allen qualifies for Social Security and Disability but they haven’t received any funds and she can’t get anyone to answer her.

“I’ve called everywhere at least a dozen times and no one can help,” Brenda said. She was told Allen would qualify for the Advantage Medicaid Program but one month later they told her that patients with traumatic brain injuries were no longer eligible for the program.

Brenda has done everything she knows to do but Allen’s Direct Express card has not arrived as it should, and those numbers are needed to access the funds that should have already been given to Allen.

They also are unable to transport Allen to doctors’ appointments far away. They don’t have access to a personal transportation vehicle, and Allen cannot travel in a normal vehicle. Brenda said that she has exhausted their savings and doesn’t know how they are going to acquire everything that Allen needs to stay alive.

Brenda said that God told her nearly three years before Allen’s accident that she should begin preparing for something big happening to Allen. She said she continued to have dreams that would encourage her to save or send messages of how to adjust their lives to keep Allen alive. Some of those dreams, she said, were preparing her for a life in which Allen wouldn’t be able to see, speak or eat. She changed the type of car Allen drove, which she was later told was one factor in saving his life. She made sure he had air bags and that they were in proper working order.

The family spent 14 years as missionaries in five different countries, and one of Allen’s dreams was to continue with his family and help others around the world. His two older sisters have completed 11 missions between them and he can’t wait to get back to help. From Panama to Costa Rica, Venezuela, Zimbabwe and South Africa, Allen found a love of traveling and missionary work at a young age.

The family hasn’t had many visitors of late, but Brenda stressed how much she appreciated everyone who has helped, donated, made meals, visited, etc. Brenda said they have been helped by many local churches, friends and even strangers. Some have asked how they can help. Brenda said financial gifts, medical supplies, food items, pre-made meals, rehab support and visitors are greatly appreciated.

While she said she prefers personal visits to the house at 105 Royal Oak Drive in Poteau, those wishing to visit or donate can call the house and leave a message at (918) 649-0745. There is also a GoFundMe account called Allen Daniels Recovery, and those wishing for updates can visit his page at caringbridge.org. According to Brenda, Allen’s story has been shared more than 26,000 times around the world through friends they’ve met in their missionary work.

Brenda ended by saying that thoughts and prayers are always greatly appreciated.