Injured motorcyclist eager to be fitted for prosthetic arm and leg
Ryan Dalla Valle grins as he tries to endure the pain of a shattered pelvis and burns he suffered in an April 13 motorcycle wreck near his home in Somerset County.
Dalla Valle dreads the weeks ahead lying in a bed until his wounds heal because it is delaying him from working on an important new goal — getting fitted with prosthetic limbs to replace the right arm and left leg he lost in the accident.
“My goal is to do everything I did before. There's nothing that's going to stop me,” Dalla Valle, 33, of Windber, said from a bed at Allegheny General Hospital in the North Side.
“I want to start doing more for the community. But right now my focus is getting out of bed and starting my rehab,” he said.
Dalla Valle said he was driving home shortly after midnight when he lost control of his motorcycle as he tried to avoid hitting an animal that darted in front of him.
The bike skidded under a guardrail and the gas tank exploded, igniting Dalla Valle's body.
He credits his survival to a passer-by, who put the fire out with his bare hands, and a physician living nearby who arrived after hearing about the accident on a police radio scanner.
“When I recover, I plan to do everything I can to promote motorcycle safety and the importance of wearing a helmet and proper clothing,” he said. “They're part of the reason I'm still alive.”
Dalla Valle said he has suffered from depression since the crash. He said he is coping with the help of family and friends and the fact that he is alive to help raise his daughters: Emma, 3, and Olivia, 10 months. Dalla Valle and his wife are separated but remain friends, his father said.
A big part of Dalla Valle's job as a funeral director in his family's business is helping others deal with the grief of losing loved ones.
Now family, friends and even strangers are helping him through the toughest ordeal of his life.
Lifelong friend Krista Cramer, who lives in Virginia, has organized a fundraiser to help Dalla Valle get the prosthetic limbs he needs.
“I couldn't believe how upbeat Ryan was after the accident,” said Cramer, 29.
Cramer sought help from Give Forward, a fundraising company that is helping victims of the Boston Marathon bombing raise money to cover medical expenses.
Give Forward established a “Rally for Ryan” web page to accept donations. As of Friday evening, the site had collected $10,245 from 79 donors who gave $20 to $1,000 toward a goal of $150,000.
“The response from people has been absolutely amazing,” said Dalla Valle's father, Joe Dalla Valle. “I can't say enough about the outpouring of support.”
Dr. Barbara Swan, director of physical therapy and rehabilitation at West Penn Allegheny Health System, said the prognosis is good for young, healthy patients with injuries similar to Dalla Valle's.
“I tell patients that it can take as long as a year before a prosthesis feels like it belongs to you,” she said.
Swan said technology such as computerized joints and sensors that read electrical impulses from the muscles make living with a prosthesis easier.
“The ability to walk at different speeds, push off their feet and move them side to side is huge, especially for younger people,” Swan said.
Tony LaRussa is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7987 or firstname.lastname@example.org.