Last Valentine's Day, Cpl. Dan Hahn’s life was changed—but not in any way connected to the holiday.
After celebrating Valentine's Day with his wife over the weekend, the veteran Cranberry Township police officer was working his usual evening shift Feb. 14, 2011, when he joined officers from multiple police departments in a high-speed car chase that began in Sewickley Hills and ended on Interstate 79 in Jackson Township.
In an attempt to escape surrounding officers, the driver got out of his car and jumped from an overpass. Not knowing what was below, Hahn followed and fell more than 20 feet.
The driver died from his injuries the next day. A medical helicopter transported Hahn to Allegheny General Hospital, where he spent three weeks in a coma.
His injuries included a broken back, a spinal cord injury and damage to his shoulder and sternum and other fractures. Within months of beginning physical therapy at the HealthSouth Harmarville Rehabilitation Hospital, he progressed from barely being able to move his 6-foot-4 frame to taking steps with a walker and climbing the stairs.
In June, he returned home.
This Valentine’s Day, he’s not taking any chances. He joked that his wife, Fritz, won’t let him out of the house.
“We’re going to keep it quiet,” he said. “I don’t know what the rest of the world is going to do, but the Hahn house is keeping it quiet.”
Hahn said he spends three days a week in physical therapy at the rehabilitation center and one day doing aquatic therapy.
“I have a series of exercises I do in the water,” he said. “It feels pretty good to do that.”
Today, he walks with a cane, although at large events—where there’s a possibility he could get knocked over—he still uses a wheelchair.
“I get out when I can. Me and my wife, we’ll go out together,” he said. “On Sunday, we do church and get something to eat.”
Hahn admits on most days he doesn’t feel like leaving the house at all, but he relents under his wife’s encouragement—and he’s always glad he did. He credits Fritz with being his rock in his recovery efforts.
“My wife is an incredible woman,” he said. “She keeps after me. She keeps me busy.”
Hahn said he and Fritz have grown even closer since the accident. On nights when Hahn wakes in pain from body spasms, Fritz pulls out a massage table she bought just for these occasions and rubs his back.
“I definitely don’t know what I did in my life to deserve a woman of such beauty and strength and character,” Hahn said.
He also is grateful for the love that the community he served has expressed.
Although it has been a year since his accident, Hahn said people in the community constantly ask him about his health when they see him or thank him for his service. Recently, a woman he didn’t know came up to him while he was dining at the Monte Cello’s in Cranberry and planted a kiss on his cheek.
“It means a lot that people still remember, and it’s nice that they do,” he said. “I figure the least I can do is come back to work.”
His goal of returning to the police department has remained unchanged since he was injured. His return, though, is an open-ended one, with no firm date set.
Once he can walk unassisted, Hahn said he will undergo major surgery on his shoulder. After seven other operations, he hopes this will be the last procedure.
With today's one-year anniversary of his accident, Hahn said he and his wife have no need to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Life is a holiday.
“Every day is Valentine’s Day for us now. Every day is Christmas,” he said. “Every day is what you make of it. We both appreciate things so much better now.”