Danielle refuses to stay down

INSPIRATIONAL people are everywhere, and each one is different. Danielle Pirillo (12) has had over twenty back surgeries and has been challenged with hearing loss over the course of her life. All of this has resulted in making her the strong person that she is today.

At the beginning of Pirillo’s junior year, she was faced with yet another back surgery. This time, they were going to try and get rid of her pain. Yet it still required a long and strenuous recovery.  

“For the first month of school, I wasn’t allowed to come. I had to work with my counselor to be able to leave five minutes early from class or make it so I had the same teacher twice a day,” Pirillo said.

It was the beginning of the year, and most of the things she was missing weren’t too hard, but that still meant that she was quickly falling behind. She also noticed that the majority of her friends seemed to forget about her. Thankfully though, she was a able to reconnect with one person in particular who was able to help her.

Pirillo and Nora Gallagher (12) became close friends in kindergarten. They remained a close pair until sixth grade when Gallagher changed schools and the two lost touch. It wasn’t until their sophomore year of high school that they reconnected.

“Reconnecting with DeeDee was really great,” Gallagher said. They quickly became just as close as they had been years before. They began to inspire and push each other to do their best in every way possible. These two have a bond that will never be broken.  

One of the most important things to Pirillo, besides friendship, is her family. She is especially close to her grandparents. She shares a very special bond with both of her grandparents and loves spending as much time as possible at their house.

She has always been able to go to her grandfather before her surgeries with any fear or worry, knowing that he will be able to calm her down. Over the years, her grandmother has become one of her best friends as well.  

“My favorite thing to do with DeeDee is first of all, is just being with her. To go places and get things when we go shopping. We like to do our shopping while grandma does her own shopping, she doesn’t know about it. I like that we have our secrets,” Hans Olsen, Pirillo’s grandfather, said.

“I enjoy discussing books with her, and we have fun going shopping together and trying to lose grandpa. And she doesn’t let me go to five-dollar movie nights because there are too many old people there,” Marion Olsen, Pirillo’s grandmother, said. There are so many fun times among the three that have become some of Pirillo’s most treasured memories.

They both cherish her and are thankful for the blessings she brings to them. They both have such great hopes for Pirillo, but most of all they want her to be happy.

As a child, Pirillo spent most of her time in hospitals and doctors’ offices. She had a very unique experience, but it is one that has made her stronger as a human being.

“I had to go for surgery twice a year and that was usually during the summer. So during those times it was just recovering. When I wasn’t doing that I was going to check-ups, but other than that I had a pretty normal childhood,” Pirillo said.

Her childhood wasn’t completely abnormal thanks to a brother and a sister who were always willing to torture her, but she was always ready to torture them back.

She has such an amazing family support system at home, and the backbone of that support system is her mother Becky Pirillo.

“As a child, DeeDee was adventurous and fun-loving. She was always happy. And now she is just as fun-loving plus being kind-hearted, happy, and caring,” Becky Pirillo said.  

Through her strength and personality Pirillo has proved herself to be a force to be reckoned with.  

While Pirillo’s life has been filled with ups and downs, she never lets anything keep her down for long.

“The saddest moment of my life should be when my parents got divorced but, it was probably when I realized that I had to have surgery again. All I wanted was to be able to audition for the play and not have to prepare for another surgery,” Pirillo said.

When the news came that she would need yet another surgery, Pirillo was completely blindsided. Neither she nor her doctors were prepared for it, but after years of pain it was time to do something. While the surgery was meant to be one that helped her pain, it was still an incredibly invasive and terrifying procedure.

“They made an incision from the top of my neck to the bottom of my back area so that they could get in and take out these two long rods and about eight screws that were in my back so that the bones wouldn’t be rubbing against them,” she said.

Thankfully, as of right now, Pirillo reports that the procedure has significantly decreased her pain. While it is not completely gone, she no longer has shooting pains every time she moves. She now has the freedom to focus on the things that she loves and moving on with her life while leaving pain behind.

“I want to be remembered as someone who is strong, but not the weird kind of strong. Just someone that people kind of admire, but also just as someone who is hard-working—someone that everyone remembers as not only being strong and inspirational, but also as someone who is kind and will change the world,” Pirillo said.

There is no doubt that Pirillo will go on to touch people’s lives and prove that the only thing standing between people and success is themselves.