50 years ago today by Don Bania

ducati, 50 years ago today, don bania, motorcycle accident, neck injury, quadriplegic, paralyzed, icu

Patient stories are one of the great things we get out of working at Hennepin Healthcare. This story came in the other day and touched our hearts; we are sure it will touch yours.

Greetings, HCMC Doctors and Colleagues,

Yesterday, August 19th, 2020 marked the 50th Anniversary of my motorcycle accident. Attached is a recent photo of me at the scene of the accident. Following is my story. If possible, pass this story around.

Thank you, Don Bania

By Don Bania

It happened as if it were yesterday. August 19, 1970, a Wednesday.

I was 18 years old fresh out of high school when I borrowed a co-worker’s motorcycle.

The motorcycle was a 250 Ducati and I got onto it as if I was late for a hot date.

From my father’s gas station on 11th & Hennepin Ave. in downtown Minneapolis, I sped down 10th Street to 35W and then to Lake Street.  Then I headed west.

But little did I know, 2 miles away heading east was a drunk driver.

As I crossed Hennepin and approached the intersection of Lake and James my world turned upside down when the drunk driver turned into my lane.

With no time to stop, I squeezed the brakes and everything turned into slow motion.

It took me less than a second to hit his car, but it seemed like minutes, long enough for me to say, “I can’t believe this is happening to me!”

The impact threw me over the handlebars and headfirst into the car’s roofline, when everything went black, I saw stars and heard nothing.

It was at this very moment, my neck broke, completely severing my spinal cord, leaving me a quadriplegic paralyzed from the shoulders down. (Minnesota had a mandatory helmet law in 1970.)

Moments later, I woke up in the middle of the intersection flat on my back with the crowd of strangers standing around me. I heard myself saying, “Is my bike okay? Is my bike okay?”, while a man kneeling down by my head was trying to take my helmet off.

The pain in my neck was excruciating. It felt like a hand grenade had just blown up inside.

Minutes later, the ambulance arrived. The paramedics rolled me onto a backboard and then put me in the ambulance. I remember complimenting the paramedic on his black, bushy mustache, as I’m sure he was saying to himself, “Keep on talking kid, keep on talking!”

There at General Hospital in downtown Minneapolis, a team of doctors and nurses were waiting, where they immediately cut off all my clothes and then shaved the hair off the top of my head.

Next, came a man in a white lab coat with an electric drill in his hand. Without a word, he started drilling a hole in the top of my head. That’s when I passed out and woke up in the ICU with a Catholic priest giving me the Last Rites.

When he saw that my eyes were open, he walked up to me and said, “Donald, you’ve got a free ticket to heaven.”  To which I said, “Father, can I have a rain check?”

With a loss for words, the priest backed up and my 42-year-old father stepped into my view, when I said, “Well Dad, I got a haircut!”

That was the first day of my 50-year journey. A journey filled with ups and downs and joys and sadness. But also, a journey filled with PEOPLE. Wonderful people, who I want to say, “THANK YOU” who came to my side to care for me, to cheer me up, and to be my arms and legs. Not to mention, Jesus Christ, my Savior and Lord, who gave me the ability to forgive the drunk driver.

Paralyzed with Happiness,

Don Bania


  1. Don Bania on September 2, 2020 at 8:42 pm

    Interesting note to readers:

    Back then in 1970, I spent four weeks in ICU and one week in a 36 bed ward.

    Above the nurses station on the far side of the arena like nursing ward was a hung a 4’ x 8’ sign.

    It had white letters and a red background with a four letter word on it. – Can you guess what that four letter word was? Simply…


  2. Bonnie Ask on November 29, 2020 at 8:59 pm

    Hi Don,

    I hope all is well with you as we maneuver through this pandemic.

    You don’t know me and I only know who you are because I did some research to find you. The reason why – I was cleaning out a closet and came across a print of the city Bethlehem with a star brightly shining over it. On the bottom of the print is the following “Oh come let us adore him. King of kings & Lord of lords.” It is signed down in the corner – Don Bania P. T. L. It was framed in an old frame. Curious I took the back off and found a calligraphy written message telling that it was being shared as a Christmas present from their son and signed “The Bania family”

    It then went on to tell how the print was made…using a mouth stick by using dots.

    I am not sure of the date this was made or who it was intended for. I believe it was sold at an auction sale and was in box of other items. I do not remember whose auction sale it was.

    We live in Morris, Minnesota.

    I just want to let you know I have this and would gladly return it to you if you would like. The work you put into this piece is incredible!

    Take care,

    Bonnie Ask
    [email protected]

  3. mary wille on December 6, 2022 at 5:14 pm

    Don it has been a very long time since I last saw you. There have been many times over the past two years. I remember sharing spiritual experiences with you and I sometimes miss talking with you. I have two more to share with you . One very powerful. Basically a year of blessings. I would love to find sometime for us to meet again.
    In my thoughts and prayers

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