Gilroy brings message of encouragement, hope to Helen Keller Lecture

Gilroy encouaged those in attendance to use what they have to bring hope to others around them rather than letting circumstances paralyze them.

Gilroy encouaged those in attendance to use what they have to bring hope to others around them rather than letting circumstances paralyze them.

Troy University alumnus and motivational speaker Danny Gilroy encouraged those attending this year’s Helen Keller Lecture on the Troy Campus to shake off what paralyzes them and use what they have to bring hope to those around them.

Gilroy, a 1992 alumnus with a degree in theatre and speech, was serving as a pastor at a church in Pace, Fla. when he was stricken with a rare neurological condition known as Transverse Myelitis, which caused inflammation along his spine that crushed his spinal cord and rendered him a quadriplegic. In the span of about six and a half hours, Gilroy went from walking into a hospital emergency room to being paralyzed.

“On oct 17, 2017, I woke up, got out of bed and I felt this pressing around my stomach and lower back,” Gilroy said. “It was pressing in on me and it was obnoxious, and it hurt, and I knew I needed to go to the hospital. We headed to the hospital and drove around to where the emergency room was. One of my legs was going numb. We had about 15 or 20 yards to walk to the door to the emergency room, so I put my arm around my wife, and we began to walk. Whenever I talk about this walk, I remember it, and I don’t just remember it, I can feel myself walking toward that hospital door. We walked in where we were met by a wheelchair. I sat down in that wheelchair, and I never got up again. What do you do with that?”

Gilroy is a 1992 graduate of TROY with a degree in theatre and speech.

Gilroy was taken to a room for observation and spent most of the next month in the Intensive Care Unit.

“I don’t remember much for the next month because most of it was spent in ICU,” he said. “I have Transverse Myelitis. Instead of attacking a virus, my immune system attacked my spine and crushed it. My neurologist calls me impressive. Everyone wants to be called impressive, right? However, when your neurologist calls you impressive it’s not for those reasons. The images of my spine when you see it in an MRI is just a white line. It looks like it’s not even there. That’s how much it crushed it. The question is, what do you do with that?”

Seven days into his hospital stay, Gilroy developed an internal bleed and crashed.

“It was bad. My wife was at the nurse’s station when the red lights went off. I’m not going to tell y’all I saw the white light, but it was bad,” he said. “All of a sudden, it turned around. And the nurse came out when things turned around for the better and said to my wife, Elizabeth, ‘I don’t know what happened. I’ve never seen that before in all my time here.’ My wife looked at her and said, ‘I know what happened. God happened.’”

As he began to recover, Gilroy was faced with dealing with all that had happened to him.  

“When I talk about what do you do with that, there are two ways you can go,” he said. “You can continue to ask questions that you don’t know the answer to, or you can do something else. I can’t keep asking those questions because when you ask those questions, you stay right here, wondering why. That’s not who I am. I’m not saying it’s not hard. There are times and moments, but for the most part from the beginning, I decided I can’t stay here.”

After spending two months in the hospital, Gilroy returned to his church.

“When I got out of the hospital – I was there for two months – I got out on a Friday afternoon and that Sunday morning, I rolled up in that church and I led service and I preached,” he recalled. “I used what I’ve got – a voice and a way to create a message – to seize the moment to bring hope to the community I was a part of at that time. I believe everybody has a paralysis in their life. No one’s is more significant or less significant than another’s. You may be focused so much on what is going on in that situation that you don’t move on in your life and you stay right there. That’s not who you were meant to be either.”

Recounting the Biblical story of David and Goliath, Gilroy said many questions surrounded David’s ability to kill the giant, but he didn’t let that stop him.

“David knew who was on his side. David used what he had to take down Goliath. David didn’t ask questions. He just stayed in the moment,” he said. “You can’t seize the day unless you first seize the moment. A moment is all we have. You don’t know what is going to happen when you walk out those doors. This is our moment.”

Gilroy also shared with the audience the famous line – “You either get busy living or get busy dying” — from the 1994 movie The Shawshank Redemption.

“When we allow the paralyses in our life – whatever it is – to paralyze us, we get busy dying. But, when we look at that paralyses or we look at that giant and we say, ‘I’m going to use what I’ve got,’ that is when we get busy living. And we were meant to live. The world needs hope and when you get busy living, you give those around you hope. We all have a story. We all have a paralysis. The real question is what are we going to do with it?”

The Helen Keller Lecture Series, which began in 1995 as the vision of Dr. and Mrs. Jack Hawkins, Jr., was initiated to call attention to and raise awareness of the challenges of those with physical limitations, particularly those affecting sensory ability. Through the years, the lecture has also provided the opportunity to highlight those who have devoted their careers to meeting the needs of the sensory impaired and to celebrate the collaborative efforts and partnerships of Troy University and the agencies and individuals who serve these special individuals.

This year’s lecture is sponsored by the Helen Keller Foundation, the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services, the Alabama State Department of Education, the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind and the Alabama Department of Mental Health.