For Daniel Szauter, music is something that runs through his veins.
“I’m known as Uncle Danny with the guitar who sings – even in the bathroom.”
When he first arrived at a hospital in Newmarket, Szauter says he was near death, but he knew he had to hold on to music and use it as part of his recovery. He began arranging chords in his mind, the finger placements for guitar and banjo chords, because he wanted to make sure he didn’t forget.
After his right leg was amputated, the 64-year-old from Schomberg, Ont., arrived at West Park Healthcare Centre for rehabilitation, bringing a small duffel bag of belongings, and his enduring love for music.
His mother brought him a Taylor mini-guitar at first, which he strummed and plucked up and down the halls of West Park as soon as he was able.
He soon decided to start playing music for his fellow patients on the third floor because he knows the calming effects of music, and says he wanted to help keep their spirits high.
“All these people here … have helped me move forward, and I have helped fellow amputees on my floor to stay out of the dark hole, as I affectionately call it.”
Two weeks into his stay, a friend came to visit and they put on a show in the common area for the entire third floor.
Szauter plays in two country bands and is deft in multiple instruments including banjo and mandolin. Growing up, Szauter was both nourished with and consumed by music.
“I ate Gordon Lightfoot for dinner … the nuances, the picking style. I had the albums, and I would study the songs, and about three or four songs of every single album, I would get it down tight.”
Getting his life back meant getting back to music, and finding the strength to perform again.
“What they do here is nothing short of miracle work. Come to this place, your heart will be altered; you’ll be moved by what goes on in here.”