When Don Digby was lying alone, paralyzed, in the dark on a California sand dune, he was afraid. He could hear coyotes calling nearby and wondered when they would close in on him.
Digby had been bringing up the rear of a group of friends on a nighttime fourtrack motorcycle ride when his quad flipped, sending him flying 75 feet end-over-end. He lay still with a broken back and neck, calling for his friends who didn’t even realize he was missing for quite some time.
His friends eventually discovered him, and he was taken to the nearest town, 50 miles away, and then airlifted to San Diego. Ten days later, the Denver native was flown to Craig Hospital. It was the start of a relationship that would change many lives—including his.
“I lived just one mile from Craig, and I had always known it was recognized as one of the best places for people with injuries like mine,” says Digby, the founder and CEO of Navajo Express, a national transportation provider with refrigerated, dry van, and intermodal transport services. “I was there for two and a half months, and was able to walk out of the doors, it was amazing.”
While he was at Craig, Digby befriended many of the other patients. “Without a doubt, I was one of the oldest people on the floor,” he says. “I enjoyed these 19-year-olds so much; they would bring their friends to my room, like I was the entertainment.”
His wife and five children were always at his side, and his fellow church board members conducted business meetings in his room so that he could attend. His son, Don Jr. would frequently bring Navajo executives by to visit with him and keep him up-to-date on happenings with the trucking business.
“It was pretty different than most hospitals that you think of,” Digby laughs. “My door seemed to be open all the time.”
Digby remains in touch with many members of his Craig cohort. Before the Family Housing apartments were built, he and his wife Lydia regularly housed family members of Craig patients in their home. He also supported individual patients financially. When he sees a Craig family out to eat at his favorite Italian restaurant near the hospital, he anonymously picks up their tab.
Even now, fifteen years after his injury, Digby visits the hospital weekly to mentor patients and encourage staff members.
“I make it a priority, it’s a part of my life and I’m going to continue,” he says. “I will always take time to see someone who needs help.”
He enjoys talking with patients about their accidents and their experiences at Craig. “There’s not a person there who doesn’t want to tell you about their accident, they need to talk about it,” he says. “I don’t want to give anyone false hope, but I am so fortunate that I got through what I did, I can share my experiences too.”
The couple has donated more than $1.8 million to the Craig Hospital Foundation over the years, including a recent gift of $1 million to Redefining ROI: The Campaign for Craig Hospital, for the capital project that will fund Craig’s expansion and renovation, and to Craig’s Patient Assistance Fund.
They earmarked $700,000 of the gift to challenge other donors to help the Craig Hospital Foundation complete fundraising for the $50 million capital campaign goal. The remaining $300,000 of the gift will benefit Craig’s Patient Assistance Fund, which helps patients with minimal income or inadequate insurance to purchase adaptive equipment, remodel homes for accessibility, train caregivers, pay mortgages and meet other urgent needs.
“We are so grateful for Don and Lydia’s support and friendship over the years,” says Mary Feller, executive director of the Craig Hospital Foundation. “Their willingness to give back and help other patients is inspiring.”
Digby says that he will continue to support Craig Hospital because he can see results in the patients he visits.
“I talk to people up there, and I know [their injury] is a tough pill to swallow,” he says. “But if I can make their minds more positive, to show them that they can live with what they have, if I can make a bit of a difference— that’s what matters.”