Danny’s Miracle Angel Network Helps Those With Disabilities Celebrate Life, Enjoy Music
(Mary Dupuis, March 18, 2023)
Berkley, MI – The D-MAN Foundation (Danny’s Miracle Angel Network) is a nonprofit organization based in Berkley that operates under the mission of enriching the lives of families and individuals with mental or physical disabilities.
The foundation was created in 2009 by Ziad Kassab in loving memory of his younger brother, Danny. Danny had been hit by a car in 1993 at the age of 7 and had lived the next 16 years of his life as a ventilator-dependent quadriplegic.
Despite the daily struggles Danny endured, Ziad and his brother Calvin said he held onto his love for life as they did everything they could to ensure he continued to experience new things such as traveling or making music.
According to the foundation’s website, when Danny was making music, “he could forget about his disability and focus on all of the tremendous ability he did have.”
Thus, the idea for the D-Man Music Therapy Studio was born. Ziad set to work to create a state-of-the-art music therapy studio built specifically to suit the needs of quadriplegics as well as other physically and cognitively challenged people.
Kassad said it took him almost four years to get the studio up and running in 2013.\
“There was no such a model to copy,” Kassad said. “It’s like if you want to open a coffee shop, there’s already a model for that. But there really wasn’t a music therapy model in a studio setting…We kind of converted ours into more of a it’s a studio setting with a formal clinical assessment and goals that are monitored and reevaluated every 30 days to prove that it’s working.”
Kassad said when a patient comes in, a board-certified musical therapist will conduct a formal clinical assessment for them, scoring the patient in physical, social, emotional and cognitive areas.
Based on the assessment, the musical therapist creates musical types of exercises to help the patient achieve clinical goals.
Kassad said as an example there was a patient who had weak dexterity they were able to treat with musical therapy who was given a very large drum stick – so it was easier for them to grip – and certain rhythms and beats to practice playing until their next appointment.
When the patient came back, they were given a slightly smaller drumstick to practice the same beats with. Eventually, the drum sticks got smaller and smaller and the patient was also able to feed themselves or get themselves their own water.
In a more complex case, Kassad had a quadriplegic patient who used a ventilator, but could come off of it for short periods of time. The patient worked with their murses and doctors to create formal exercises to strengthen their diaphragm. Then, their musical therapist gave them a mount that sat on their shoulders with a harmonica for them to play to help practice their breathing.
Soon enough, the patient was able to get a diaphragm pacer and can now breathe without the ventilator for four hours a day.
In addition to all of this, an audio engineer also works with the musical therapist and the patient to mix the beats they make and instruments they play into their own music.
“People say, ‘Well, what do you guys do?’ I say, ‘Well, we make awesome records and get people healthy,’” Kassad said.
Another one of the foundation’s signature programs is The Assisted Travel program.
“One of the things I was able to do with my brother was take him on vacations and he was very high level C-1 quadriplegic spinal cord injury, and he was dependent on the ventilator 24/7 and had 24 hour a day nursing care,” Kassad said. “So, you know, people said, ‘You can’t take him, you can’t travel anywhere with him.’ And I said, ‘Well, nothing’s impossible.’ So I was able to do that for him and I wanted to be able to do that for others.”
Next month Kassad is taking four patients in power wheelchairs on a cruise ship to the Bahamas, marking what Kassad said is the fifth or sixth trip the organization has organized. All expenses for the trip are paid, transportation is already organized and nurses and physical therapists accompany the group for the entire trip.
“Peopple forget so often how important the role of the family is in all of this and and how much the family does and how much the caregivers do,” Kassad said. “So, we bring the families, we bring the caregivers, we bring the patients and then just basically give them the trip of a lifetime.”
The Assisted Travel program also helps patients attend concerts and sports games.
One special event the foundation also runs is called, “Dreams Come True On Woodward” where patients are transferred from their wheelchair to the front seat of a convertible to ride in the Woodward Dream Cruise.
The organization’s next event is a benefit concert on April 13 celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the D-Man Music Therapy Studio at The Magic Bag in Ferndale. Doors open at 6 p.m. and performances by patients, the D-Man Allstars, will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online.
“We’re 100% passion,” Kassad said. “I’m not paid. My board of directors is not paid. All of us are really doing this because we care sincerely. We’re the realest organization in town, I feel like. We work from the heart. It’s pure passion.”
Learn more about D-MAN Foundation on their website.