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Recovery from brain trauma leads to a celebration of life and love

After recovering from a severe brain trauma, Dara Wanzer and her now husband gained a new perspective on life and love
by Heather Warlick Published: August 12, 2013

In June of 2005, Dara and David Wanzer threw a huge party and invited hundreds of their friends and the health care workers that had nursed Dara back from a traumatic injury that could have left her life devastated.

This was a celebration of life and love. It was held at Will Rogers Theater.

The two told their friends, “There's going to be booze and there's going to be food and everybody's going to have a great time.” The partygoers were in for more than just booze and fun, they soon found out.

As the party got underway, it became clear that this wasn't just any party. Dara and David secretly had planned the event as a flash wedding of sorts.

“As soon as I got out of the hospital, I knew I was so grateful for my fiance and how much he'd done for me. I thought ‘OK, why have we been wasting so much time?'” Wanzer said.

After a seemingly minor accident caused major trauma to Dara's brain, the couple, who had been together for years, gained a new perspective on the fragile nature of life and love.

“The bond between us had strengthened so much and we just thought it was really important to go ahead and get married as quickly as possible,” David Wanzer said.

It was the best wedding ever, Dara Wanzer said. About 300 people were there, 30 of whom had been directly involved with Wanzer's therapy and rehabilitation.

“The best part about it is that we wanted it to be this enormous thank-you party for all of my caretakers and all the people that had done so much for me,” Wanzer said. “I hope that they understood that it was a tribute to them. It was awesome. I will never regret it.”

An ‘egregious mistake'

Nobody knows exactly what happened the day in November 2004 that left Dara Wanzer with a gaping hole in her memory she'll probably never retrieve.

She and a friend were riding around her neighborhood on his new scooters. About two blocks from Wanzer's home, her friend looked back from his scooter and saw Wanzer on the ground.

The next thing she remembers is emerging from a mental fog after a coma and a period of semiconsciousness.

Apparently she'd fallen from the scooter and her head took the brunt of the impact on the asphalt road.

“I wasn't wearing a helmet, which was a huge, egregious mistake in hindsight,” Wanzer said.

She was immediately taken to OU Medical Center, where she spent two days in a coma followed by two weeks in a state of semiconsciousness before the fog lifted and she became aware of her surroundings. She saw her fiance there by her side, as he had been since the evening of the accident.

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by Heather Warlick
Life & Style Editor
Since graduating from University of Central Oklahoma with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism, Staff Writer Heather Warlick has written stories for The Oklahoman's Life section. Her beats have included science, health, home and garden, family,...
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