Like any teenager going off to college, Danielle Troup wants to be able to drive herself to school.
But driving is something Danielle doesn’t take for granted. Paralyzed from the waist down and with limited movement in her right hand, the 2013 Arlington High School grad needs special equipment on a van to get herself to and from school this fall at Southwest Tennessee Community College.
That’s why she and her family are asking the community to help.
“I don’t like the idea of asking people for money,” said John Troup, a detective with the Memphis Police Department and Danielle’s dad. “Our budget is pretty tight.”
It started when Danielle was just 9 months old. She received an oral vaccine for polio, which contained a live strand of the disease. Instead of warding off the disease, the vaccine led to Transverse Myelitis, which affected her spinal cord. Thanks to her physical therapist, she was able to gain use of her left arm and part of her right arm. Still, she must use a power wheel chair that she controls with her left hand.
“I have my bad days, but they are mostly good,” said Danielle. “I can do most of my own makeup and hair. I need a little help when cooking.”
Her goal is to become a criminal psychologist. Despite her challenges, she graduated from Arlington with a 3.66 grade point average. She’s attending Southwest at first to save money until she can transfer to Christian Brothers to complete her degree.
Money has been an issue for the family. Because of Danielle’s multiple surgeries and medical supplies needs, her parents have had to take out a second mortgage on their Bartlett home and have racked up substantial credit card debt.
“We’ve tried our best to give (our children) everything they wanted, everything they needed,” said John.
Danielle is the youngest and the only one left at home. Her brothers, both in their 20s, have moved on to their own careers. She’s also unlikely to leave home anytime soon.
And with her mom, Mary, working just part-time to help Danielle and her dad on a police officer’s salary, there’s not enough money for a new van, they said.
John said they still have another 1 1/2 years to pay on the van they now have. It would have to be heavily modified to allow Danielle to learn how to drive it. In addition to dropping the floor so the driver’s seat could be replaced with an area to accommodate her wheel chair, it also would have to be converted to be controlled entirely by hand.
Not only is the van not worth what they owe, it’s too old to be converted, said John.
“I didn’t do enough research,” he said. “I had no idea this van could not be converted at a later date.”
A new van could cost as much as $50,000, said John. But they are hoping to find a used van that already is converted. That could cost about $20,000. Another option would be to find a van that could be converted. If that happens, the Tennessee Department of Human Services would pay to install the controls, he said.
But they won’t buy the teenager a van. John said that’s where they are running into trouble.
If the family does not find a van, the plan is to drive Danielle to school and work their schedules around it as much as possible. But this semester, for example, that would mean Danielle would have to wait in the school’s library for two to three hours per day because her schedule won’t coincide with her parents’ work schedules.
To try to raise funds, John set up a Go Fund Me account online to seek donations for a van. However, the family would almost prefer if someone could donate a van that they then could ask the state to modify rather than accept monetary funds.
Meanwhile, Danielle hopes that her education will lead her to her earning a master’s degree and eventually a career in clinical psychology or counseling. And although her dad’s career has influenced her some, she said it’s something she really wants to do on her own.
“I’ve looked into it for a good period of time,” said Danielle.