Danielle Spencer, otherwise known as Dee on “What’s Happening” is writing her story about her car accident, paralysis and near suicide to help encourage others.
Many did know but during the three year run of What’s Happening, the actress who played the iconic character spent part of the first season in real physical pain from a horrific car accident that killed her step-father, put her in a coma for three weeks and left her with a broken pelvis, leg and arm.
Spencer says, “They stopped taping the show for about a month and I just healed pretty quickly. The Jersey-born actress said she continued filming “What’s Happening!” until the show was cancelled in 1979, then, went on to high school and finished college without any lingering ailments from the accident.
Then in 2003 – 26 years after the Sept. 7, 1977 car crash – she suddenly felt a tingling in her leg.
Turns out a disc in her back from the 1977 accident had calcified through the decades and was pressing against her nerve. She was informed by her doctor that she would never walk again unless she has an operation to remove the disc.
Spencer says after being paralyzed for about eight months and found that the physical therapy wasn’t helping she got so frustrated – to the point that she even thought about suicide.
Spencer’s mother decided to take her from Los Angeles to New Jersey and put her in the care of Christopher Reeve’s doctors at the famed Kessler Institute.
“About three weeks after I had been in New Jersey, they had me walking on a walker. This is [after] eight months in California with nothing.
In January, Dr. Danielle Spencer-Fields and co-writer Cheryl Pelt self-published, “Through the Fire: Journal of a Child Star,” a collection of memories from her early years, including details of overcoming personal adversity.
Below, Danielle explains why any reader would be inspired by her story.