Drum Corps International
Wanting to march, whatever it took

Wanting to march, whatever it took

by Drum Corps International

I received an e-mail from Cathy Walker in regards to a previous Fanfare column about marchers who overcame tremendous odds. The e-mail briefly mentioned that drum corps helped her son recover after an accident. Cathy agreed to follow up with more details, which appear below. My son was 13 when he started drum corps in January of 1997 with the Emerald Knights in Mississauga, Ontario. He picked up a mellophone (chip off the old block) and worked harder than I have ever seen him work in his life. His horn instructor was someone whose father had taught my corps when I marched, and I smiled at every practice when I heard her yelling, "Breathe, Danny, breathe," in an attempt to get him to push more air through the horn. His very first performance was at a field day in Brantford, Ontario on Fathers Day, June 15, 1997. I was so proud! Two days later, our lives changed dramatically. On his way to school, he and his sister were riding their bikes along the sidewalk, when suddenly a van made a right hand turn over the sidewalk right ahead of him. Danny put on his brakes, but could not stop skidding. He slid under the van and was run over by the rear tires. A police officer was exiting a store nearby and called an ambulance. At the hospital, they lost vital signs twice and airlifted him to the nearest trauma unit, in Hamilton. When the helicopter landed, they had to perform emergency surgery and operate on him in their street clothes -- he had needed 32 units of blood. He lost his spleen, severed off one-third of his liver, badly damaged his kidneys (it looked like he would lose at least one, if not both), fractured his spine and shoulder and had contusions around the head. When they finally got a hold of me, I rushed to the hospital, where they took me to the chapel. I feared the worse. The doctor in the ICU told me that things were dire and that he had a one in a million chance for survival. Despite this, they were taken by surprise at his amazingly strong lungs. The doctor even asked if he did breathing exercises to get in shape. That Friday, they opened him up again to survey the damage and remove the emergency packing, and they came back amazed at his resilience, saying that he looked like he would pull through. They said he should keep doing whatever he had been doing to get in shape, because it saved his life. The next day, he was still in the ICU and missed what would have been his first drum corps show. He spent three weeks in the ICU and on July 10, he walked out of the hospital, having lost 35 pounds and with 62 staples freshly removed. Despite all this, and knowing that there was no way he could physically march, he used his limited keyboard skills to pick up some odd parts in the Emerald Knights pit and was able to compete with the corps at the Division III Prelims in Orlando that August. Even his surgeon thought that this was an absolute miracle. Today, he has seven years marching under his belt and has taken the next big step in his dream to age out with a top Division I corps, marching with Crossmen in 2004. He has continued to work very hard and has made us proud every step of the way. I will ask him to write about his perspective. To be honest, he feels this is just past history and he never talks much about himself. I guess he never went through the tremendous sense of hopelessness that we felt and then the unbelievable sense of relief. He went back to mellophone in the fall of 1997 and played mellophone in the Emerald Knights in 1998 (soloist), 1999 and 2000. He joined the Patriots in 2001 and switched to soprano for two years before switching back to mellophone in 2003, and he played the Patriots' opening mellophone solo last year. Can he march? You bet! I think if you talked to his instructors, they would say he is one of the best marchers out there. He currently teaches the winter marching program at Dutch Boy. He is also currently a student at the University of Waterloo, in the second year of honors mathematics, majoring in computer science. Cathy Walker Danny did write about what happened, from his perspective. Here's how he remembers what happened and how he was able to fully recover. In January of 1997, I was introduced to drum corps through the Emerald Knights. I was 13 and didn't know much about what I was getting into, but it was a chance to make new friends and actively do something outside of the house. Looking back on it, even though it was a young corps, I must have been quite the chip -- I had to drop out a lot because I wasn't breathing enough and would feel faint. Drum corps was a lot of hard work for a skinny out-of-shape little kid! Anyway, I worked hard at what I did, and eventually it was June and we had already done our first parade and learned most of the show. June 15 was an ODCA exhibition called "field day," where all the local corps (man, not many of those around anymore) performed, then got together as a mass horn line and worked on a piece to present, followed by the big "elimination" marching block. Two days later, on my way to school riding my bike with my sister, a van turned in front of me into a parking lot. I couldn't stop in time, and when I tried to swerve, I slipped under, and the back tire went over my midsection. I remember most of everything that happened from there, pretty much any time when I wasn't clinically dead. Although this part is best told by my family, some memories stick out most to me. When I initially tried to get up, I thought it felt no worse than a hit to the stomach. I was embarrassed about falling off my bike and was more worried about getting to class on time. But I wasn't able to move and people were surrounding me. Another event I remember is that my dad was crying over me at the local hospital before I was airlifted (after his 15-minute drive from Toronto, which should have taken 45 minutes). But what stands out to me the most is how people around me reacted. I don't fear dying as much as I dread how my family must have felt when they were taken into the chapel and told I probably wouldn't make it. More than the 100 get well cards I got from school, etc., what brightened those depressing three weeks in the hospital most was what the Emerald Knights sent me. Before their first real competition of the summer, the corps put together a tribute video for me in which they all said something for my benefit. Also, they added a video of the show in which I was surprised to hear the announcer say that their performance was dedicated to me! Additionally, it was the only show of the year they won. Maybe they should have dedicated every show. During this, all I was thinking was, "I don't want to miss out this year." I wanted to march, whatever it took -- or at least keep some food down long enough to get above 108 pounds. I was probably at least 5'10" at that time. I had asked the doctors if there was any chance I might be able to handle it -- they obviously didn't recommend that level of physical activity. The doctors eventually sent me home on a trial basis, hoping I'd be able to recover better eating home-cooked food. I made it out to a practice to watch and hoped there was some way I could eventually participate, maybe do part of the closer when I was ready. I tried to warm up with the horn line at another rehearsal at least a week later, but I just couldn't handle it. For a couple shows, I started helping out setting up guard equipment and props. Eventually, someone suggested that I do something with the pit. I had some piano skills, and I would do anything to be part of the show. So, I started picking up easy keyboard parts here and there, and extra texture and effect stuff, like bells or a chain slapping down on wood. Nothing difficult or important, and I still ended up standing at parade rest for half the show, but I still got to participate. Most importantly, I got to go with the corps to Florida and compete in DCI Division III prelims! That was a long time ago, and aside from the memories, missing organs and a weakened immune system, I've recovered. I went back to mellophone that winter (I was a soloist in 1998) and stayed with the Emerald Knights until they folded after the 2000 season. I then went to a corps I was always a fan of, the Patriots, and played second soprano in 2001 and 2002 and played lead mellophone in 2003. Now they're gone too, and I've found a new home this year in the Crossmen, where I'm playing mellophone. Drum corps definitely keeps me in shape now. Otherwise, I think I probably would have wasted the summer away in bed -- feeling bad about myself. I assume that my drum corps experience leading up to the accident helped me pull through, because I was a pretty weak kid then. Danny Walker Fanfare archives Michael Boo has been involved with drum and bugle corps since 1975, when he marched his first of three seasons with the Cavaliers.

He has a bachelor's degree in music education and a master's degree in music theory and composition.
   
He has written about the drum corps activity for over a quarter century for publications such as Drum Corps World, and presently is involved in a variety of projects for Drum Corps International, including souvenir program books, CD liner notes, DCI Update and Web articles, and other endeavors. Michael currently writes music for a variety of idioms, is a church handbell and vocal choir director, an assistant director of a community band, and a licensed Realtor in the state of Indiana. His other writing projects are for numerous publications, and he has published an honors-winning book on the history of figure skating. His hobbies include TaeKwonDo and hiking the Indiana Dunes. But more than anything, Michael is proud to love drum corps and to be a part of the activity in some small way, chronicling various facets of each season for the enjoyment of others.