A freak diving accident left East Quogue resident Dana Barrett with a broken neck, damaged spine, and the inability to breathe on her own, but her local community is lifting her up.
A GoFundMe has seen a tremendous response, and the funds are pouring in following the June 30 incident, demonstrating how Barrett, as many friends and family members have put it, “is everyone’s best friend.”
“I think that says a lot about her personality that so many people consider her to be their best friend, because she really is just a wonderful, caring person,” said cousin Jamie Perna. “Her road to recovery is going to be extremely, extremely long, and we don’t want medical bills to be in her way down the road.”
Perna received a call from Barrett’s boyfriend Seamus Cantwell, and immediately took the first ferry from Connecticut to meet her cousin who was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital. Barrett lost her father, an officer at the Riverhead Correctional Facility when she was 16, and mother, who worked for Southampton Town, when she was 21.
“We were in disbelief,” Perna said was how they reacted to the news. “Despite her going through all she did at such a young age, she has showed strength and resilience. She doesn’t let anything get her down. She’s always there, with her head held high and a smile on her face, despite all the trials and tribulations.”
Barrett is currently stable and conscious on the ICU floor, and is scheduled for surgery this week. She’d suffered a C2 fracture, and doctors are currently unsure whether she’ll be able to walk again. The 28-year-old was an elite gymnast when she was younger, traveling across the United States attending camps where she was trained by Olympic coaches. She had also worked out daily, and was an avid snowboarder, living in Utah for a short while.
“This is extremely tragic that she may not be able to do the things she loves to do,” Perna said. “And she is one of the kindest people that I have ever met. She really is, and anyone who comes in contact with her says the same exact thing.”
That’s been evident by the support shown through the GoFundMe campaign Perna set up to raise money to support the financial burden. Doctors have told Perna estimations given are thousands of dollars per day, and recovery will take years.
“With every trial she has faced, she has always come out stronger,” Perna said. “Dana will physically fight this, however, she needs whatever help anyone can.”
In just 24 hours, Barrett received $125,000 in donations. As of press time, the campaign surpassed $230,000 funded by more than 1175 people, some of whom donated hundreds to thousands.
“She is the most selfless person in the world and deserves nothing but all the love and support anyone can give,” Brittany Gold said.
“You are an amazing person, and because of that, you have the best support system — we are all here for you. Stay strong,” Kalle Phillips wrote.
Kathy and Alex Sweet called Barrett “one of the toughest girls” they know, and Sarah Haupt said “there’s no one more deserving of our love.”
“Stay strong Dana, and keep fighting,” said Natalie Camp. “We all love you and your huge heart to help others. It’s our time to show you how much we care and appreciate what you’ve done to touch all of these people’s lives.”
Lizzy Cantwell, Seamus’s sister-in-law, who referred to Barrett as her sister, said that Barrett, who graduated Westhampton Beach High School, is her son C.J.’s godmother.
“Dana is the most amazing woman — she is the kind that hops on a plane and flies 500 miles, gets in a car straight away just so you wouldn’t have to drive nine hours with two kids by yourself,” Cantwell said. “We chose Dana because we could not have thought of a better person to help our C.J. through life than this incredible human.”
Those looking to donate can visit www.gofundme.com/f/danabarrettstrong.