Daniel Bardwell went to lay down last August with a nagging pain in his neck. When he woke up he couldn't move anything below his chest.
"It's surreal in that moment," Bardwell said. "I think I was in shock."
The longtime Frisco detective later learned a staph infection had settled on his spine. Staph is relatively rare but can be picked up most anywhere. Once it's in the body many people don't survive. In Bardwell's case he did, but the infection damaged his spinal cord so much, doctors told him he was a quadriplegic.
"No one prepares for that," Daniel said.
Daniel's wife Jill says she'll never forget the moment doctors told her how serious her husband's illness was. The couple was used to tackling medical problems because Daniel had battled Crohn's disease for years but nothing had prepared her for what she heard from doctors that day.
"Up until that point I kept thinking this is a minor setback. Then that hits you like a ton of bricks," Jill said.
The immediate days after Daniel's diagnosis were some of the most difficult. The father of two says his lowest point may have been when one doctor told him he'd likely never regain movement in his limbs. However, after a brief moment of mourning Daniel used that prediction to propel him forward.
"It's like kerosene on a fire. I want to prove that's not how it will be," Daniel said.
Daniel has thrown himself into physical therapy at Baylor University Medical Center and the VA. The air force veteran goes to sessions six days a week, often twice a day. His dedication is already paying off according to physical therapist Maggie Lastukhin.
"I've never seen a work ethic like his before. He never says no. He never complains," Lastukhin said.
In nine months Daniel has already regained movement in three of his limbs, an accomplishment some doctors said was impossible.
"I think when you tell Daniel something like that he just says 'no that's not how it's going to be.' And he proves them wrong," Lastukhin said.
Daniel's wife Jill she's not surprised by her husband's determination to defy the odds. It's been a part of his character since they met in middle school years ago.
"For better or worse if you tell Daniel he can't do something he's always going to find a way," Jill said.
Even so, she says she's been in awe of his unshakeable faith and positive attitude over the last year.
"He has had moments when he's down. And when I say moments that's what I mean. It's just a few seconds and he's back to fighting the good fight," Jill said.
His goal is to walk again. Daniel says it isn't a matter of "if" but "when."
"I know this, I know it will happen. My body will decide when it's time but I know it like it's already happened," Daniel said.
His fellow Frisco officers have also been inspired by their brother in blue as he's navigated one of the most difficult challenges of his life. The department has modified a position for him and he plans on returning to work in the next few months.
"That's really driving me forward. That's my purpose," Daniel said.
To make it to work, the Bardwell family wants to buy a handicap accessible van. The Frisco Police Department has started a fundraising website to help the family reach their goal. So far they're stuck at about $20,000, but hope raising awareness will help get them to $75,000 which is about how much a van would cost.
"It's been humbling. That's the best word to use when I think about all the support we've gotten," Daniel said.
Daniel says limits imposed on his recovery by others don't hold any weight in his life. The father, veteran and detective looks forward to shattering those expectations one step at a time.
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