It was Dario Minatta’s second run of the day, snowboarding down an easy slope at Breckenridge, nothing daring or high speed. That’s when the accident happened.
One minute he was zipping and the next he was tumbling. When Dario tried to get up he couldn’t move. He didn’t know it yet, but his C6 vertebra was shattered.
Dario and his girlfriend Madison Cain were vacationing with her family in Colorado. Madison had skied down, and when he didn’t meet up with her at the bottom as planned she phoned him. Again. And again. Then a paramedic called her from Dario’s phone.
Dario, 22, was being taken to a trauma center at St. Anthony’s Hospital, a two-hour ambulance ride away. Shaken, Madison called Dario’s parents, Dino and Ally Minatta, in Sonoma. Hours later they were all sitting in the hospital, waiting. By the time Dino and Ally could get there the surgery was over.
Now there is a titanium cage in Dario’s spinal cord between the C5 and C7 vertebrae, stabilizing his back and holding the bone fragments of the C6.
A C6 injury causes paralysis from the chest down. Dario can move his shoulders and arms, but not his fingers. It will be four to six months before the inflammation in his spinal cord goes down, and he will be in a neck brace for another few weeks.
“They told us injuries like Dario’s are like snowflakes, with each patient it’s different,” Madison said, ever hopeful.
The accident happened on Jan. 10. After nine days in intensive care, he was admitted to Craig Hospital, a highly rated spinal-cord injury rehabilitation center in Denver, where Dario is recovering from surgery and learning to cope with his new limitations. For his parents, Dario’s getting the best care possible is paramount, and they were told Craig is the absolute premier place for him to be. And it was only 15 minutes away.
Their insurance company didn’t agree. It wanted to fly Dario back to the Bay Area to be treated at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. Although the Minatta’s have excellent insurance that includes out-of-state coverage, Craig is considered “out of network.” The insurer is paying for only a percentage, and the 12-week program Dario is now undergoing is expected to cost the family upward of $300,000.
“He was coming here no matter what it took,” Dino said in a Facetime interview from Dario’s room at Craig Hospital. Ally, briefly home in Sonoma last weekend, agreed. “If we have to work for the rest of our lives we will,” she said. “We didn’t make the decision based on what we could afford. We wanted the best place for Dario.”
Ally has been by Dario’s side every day since the accident. She arrives at the hospital with his requested Jamba Juice each morning and goes with him to his daylong schedule of physical therapy, occupational therapy, recreational skills, and even a trip to the supermarket where patients learn to shop with their physical challenges.
Dino, who owns Belvedere Construction and has five projects now under way, flies to Colorado for long weekends, joining Ally who is living in a hotel room. Their daughters, Natalia, 25, an event manager in San Diego, and Dantia, 20, who is attending Chico State, have flown in twice to visit their brother. Dario is so happy to have his family, and Madison, who has been there almost all the time, there with him.
Keep Dario Strong