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SCI May Highlight

From Injury to Jewelry to Jurisprudence:
Dan Banda Shares His Journey of Physical and Professional Reinvention

Dan Banda was 23 when he sustained a T-2 injury from a motorcycle accident in 1986. When asked about his initial recovery from the acute spinal cord injury (SCI), Dan, now 55, says he feels fortunate that the only injury was to his spine, so he was able to begin rehabilitation as soon as he could sit upright.

He recalls being frustrated with his progress: “It seemed that a new limitation became obvious every day, and it took some effort to focus on what I could do, instead of what I couldn't do. After my injury, I found myself being exasperated with my inability to accomplish tasks. Everything was more difficult as a paraplegic. I was continually thinking about how much easier things would be if I were still able-bodied.” Looking back, he credits his family and friends with giving him the confidence to achieve what he has.

Within a year of his injury, Banda graduated from the University of Michigan with a fine arts degree in graphic design and a second degree in industrial engineering. After completing school, he worked as a freelance graphic designer and sign maker for local businesses, but, as he recounts, soon began “searching for a real job.”

Dan had kept in touch with his sculpture professor who recommended him to Matthew Hoffman, a well-known custom jeweler in Ann Arbor. Quickly joining the Hoffman business, Dan spent several years creating high-end jewelry under Matthew’s artistic guidance. When the business was unexpectedly forced to close a few years later, Dan was out of a job and suddenly challenged to reinvent the source of his earning power.

Dan currently works for a group of attorneys that specialize in antitrust and commercial trials, as well as tax litigation. He’s assisted with a few law suits, which can involve 100-hour work weeks. He remarks, “working as a custom jeweler at Christmas actually prepared me for these long hours of trial preparation! It has been interesting to learn about the intricacies of high finance in the corporate world and the operations of a wide array of industries--including gas and oil exploration, cranberry farming, and college athletics.”As he faced yet another challenge to creatively reinvent his career, he realized that he had been interested in law since he was young.  While surveying his friends for advice, one suggested that he look for a job as a paralegal and another recommended him to a couple of law firms in Ann Arbor. So, 22 years after his injury, Dan took on a new profession as a paralegal in 2008.

Over the years, Dan Banda has successfully traversed through a series of unexpected life circumstances. After adjusting to his SCI, he has repeatedly tapped into his creativity, social networking skills, ability to learn, and quiet sense of self-confidence to reinvent his role as a successful wage earner. From injury to jewelry to jurisprudence, Dan’s journey fascinates those who listen to his story.

When asked what advice he would give to others with SCI, he reveals, “I've been married (with no kids and a dog) for 22 years. I've also been very fortunate to have a loving and supportive family all my life, and this has helped me considerably.Over the years, my memory of being fully functional has faded, and I don't find myself making the before and after comparison as often. I was asked recently to rate my 'quality of life.' When I thought about it, I realized that my quality of life is much higher if I assess what I now have, instead of what I used to have.”

Today, Banda enjoys jewelry-making as a hobby.