Danielle Spencer From ‘What’s Happening’ Sitcom Reveals Car Accident and Near Suicide

Danielle Spencer From ‘What’s Happening’ Sitcom Reveals Car Accident and Near Suicide

The popular 1970’s sitcom “What’s Happening” was a hit and viewed by families all over the country. The little inspiration of laughter and mischief by character “Little Dee” known as Danielle Spencer gave the show a boost in ratings.

Little Dee has since all grown up and reveals a little less in laughter during some painful experiences after the show ran on television. Danielle Spencer spent part of the first season in real physical pain from a horrific car accident that killed her step-father, put her in a coma for three weeks and left her with a broken pelvis, leg and arm.

In an interview with Eurweb, Spencer stated:

“I was gone from the show for about six months. They stopped taping the show for about a month and I just healed pretty quickly. Basically I had the summer to heal and I came back for the second season.”

Danielle Spencer said the show went on filming with her until the show was cancelled in 1979. She went on to complete high school and college without any physical ailments from the accident. She married and was a veterinarian for several years.

Unfortunately, in 2003, 26 years later, Danielle started feeling some tingling in her leg. She did not think much of it because she lived in New York at the time and had been Christmas shopping all day in cold weather around town. The tingling lingered for the next three months and turned into numbness in her leg and a stabbing like pain down her back.

“That’s when I knew something was definitely wrong,” she says. “I went from walking, to [being] in a wheelchair by the end of the week.”

Eurweb reported: ‘a disc in her back from the 1977 accident had calcified through the decades and was pressing against her nerve.  She was informed by her doctor that she would never walk again unless she has an operation to remove the disc.’

“Of course after the surgery, I was paralyzed for about eight months. I found that the physical therapy wasn’t helping me at all and I was just getting so frustrated – to the point that I had even thought about suicide,” says Danielle. “This was about six months after I was released from the hospital. I was just so depressed because I wasn’t getting better.”

Her mother made a decision to move her to New Jersey from California for care under the doctors of Christopher Reeve at the famed Kessler Institute. After three weeks at Kessler, she was using a walker.

“New Jersey just gave me hope and inspiration, and I was able to help others because I came through that really dark period in my life,” she says. “It kind of turned things all around.  At the time, I said if that helped me, I know that if I write a book about this, it’s going to help other people.”


Dr. Danielle Spencer-Fields self-published, “Through the Fire: Journal of a Child Star,” in January, a collection of memories from her early years, including details of overcoming personal adversity.
Danielle Spencer-Fields (inspsiration offered in book Through the Fire) by CherieNic

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