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Overflow of support for NFM woman injured helping crash victim

By Staff | Apr 28, 2017

When Danielle Haggman was in high school and she saw someone bully another person, she stood up to the bully and looked out for the victim.

Today, the community has come through for the North Fort Myers mother of five who lost both legs in a three-car accident this past weekend on Interstate 75 while again looking out for someone in need.

And that help, she stands a good chance to treat her situation like she would face a bully – head on and come out victorious.

Three internet fundraising campaigns founded by friends and family have raised more than $36,000 in just two days, while at least three people are offering free prosthetics, including computerized devices.

Still, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to what she’s going to need in her lifetime.

Steven Berkowitz, Danielle’s father, said the support the family has gotten in three days is amazing, especially from their friends.

“It’s a number of things, it’s the community she lives in, it’s her friends and the personal friends of my ex-wife and myself from my 50 years in the martial arts,” Berkowitz said. “We raised $10,000 in one day just from those whose lives we intersected with.”

Danielle Hagmann, 30, was involved in an incident early Sunday morning after she had stopped near the Luckett Road exit on I-75 to help another motorist who had crashed.

Minutes later, both drivers were struck by a third vehicle, whose driver did not see that one of the vehicles was partially blocking the inside lane as it was raining, according to the Florida Highway Patrol report.

Hagmann was transported to Lee Memorial Hospital in critical condition. She had to have parts of both legs amputated, one just above the knee and the other in the mid-thigh. She has since been released from ICU.

Hagmann is a freelance massage therapist and does not have health insurance. She is now facing medical bills of more than $1 million in the immediate future, and as much as $2 million as she will have to replace prosthetic legs every five years or so.

Joshua Ryder, of Island Coast Orthopedics, has volunteered to provide Hagmann with those prosthetics after reading reports on her situation.

“I thought this is a perfect place for us to help. It’s nice to see the community rally behind her,” said Ryder, who has helped others in similar need in the past.

Ryder said the first prosthetics she will use will be inexpensive and very basic and will have to be refitted as her body changes and she starts taking her first steps. As time goes along and she becomes more active, she will be able to use more complex ones.

“Her residual limbs will atrophy, the excess fluids will leave her stumps and the sockets will change. She will need fittings after six months,” Ryder said. “As she becomes more active, we’ll look at better componentry. The goal is to get her up and walking a few steps.”

That is why her parents and extended family have both opened up gofundme accounts. And the initial response in the three days since has been amazing, as hundreds of people had contributed more than $36,000 as of Friday morning. A third account was also started by Steven Berkowitz, her father, late Wednesday.

The money has come from all over the country, from California to Idaho, from business people to vendors, from friends and near strangers.

Palace Roller Rink will also hold an event on May 7 at noon, with all the money going to Danielle.

The three accounts hope to raise more than $100,000 when all is said and done.

Berkowitz said the success of this drive has been through others paying it forward for all the things she has done.

“Danielle lives for life fearlessly. And when she sees a need in another person’s life, there is no hesitation, no personal assessment of the situation, or the consideration of the potential harm to herself. She dives right in,” Berkowitz said. “She’s hardwired that way. There’s no hesitation to do the right thing.”

To make a donation go to gofundme.com/dani-we-love-you or gofundme.com/3osa58g and gofundme.com/Danielle-Hagmann-Medical.