Dana was born and raised in one of her most favourite cities in the world - San Diego, California. Growing up with her older brother Scott, both were very athletic from an early age, owing their love for sport to their mother who signed them up for numerous clubs and extra-curricular activities like baseball, soccer, theatre and art classes. Dana's favourite was always soccer, which was ironically the sport she was participating in the day she got injured.
"I was running sprints at practice when my back went into extreme pain. About 30 minutes later, my legs felt heavier and the pain increased. I was then suddenly paralysed from the waist down". Dana discovered later that this was the onset of a rare neurological disease called Transverse Myelitis (a disease so rare that they still don't know its cause). "I consider myself extremely lucky however, as it can occur at any level of the spine, but mine was quite low and I was lucky enough to get function back enough to walk short distances".
Through the urging of her mom, Dana began to play adaptive sports shortly afterwards. Forever grateful to her for urging her to stay active, it's what let to Dana discovering tennis, signing up for a USTA junior tennis camp shortly after being discharged from hospital.
Initially hesitant, Dana instantly fell in love with the sport as soon as she picked up the racquet. "I grew up playing team sports, so tennis was a bit of a shock to me. At first I didn't like the added pressure of competing alone, but I've learned to love it. Tennis came at a time when I needed to find my sense of independence again, allowing me to see the world and work for what I want. It can bring out certain qualities that other sports cannot or do not do in the same way. It teaches a person self-reliance, accountability, and independence - traits that can have a massive impact on someone's life. I know they've had a massive impact on my own"
Dana competed with the University of Arizona Wheelchair Tennis team while she was obtaining her Bachelor of Science degree in Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences with a minor in Psychology. Currently studying for a Doctorate degree in Audiology, Dana also aspires to be a Paediatric Audiologist. "Getting hurt at a young age and seeing how the medical system can have a massive impact on a child has made me sympathise with children undergoing various hardships. After obtaining my doctoral degree, I hope to be able to treat children who have deteriorated hearing abilities and to improve their qualities of life".
But first and foremost, Dana is completely focused on her tennis - "I'm extremely passionate about succeeding and bettering my physical and mental game each time I step into a court, I know that improvements are not always seen overnight, but I think my passion to get better and do better is what motivates me to put in the hard hours of training. I've heard numerous times that tennis is 30% mental, and that's definitely true. It's frustrating how you can put all the work in, but at the end of the day, whoever comes on the court (and is more mentally fit that day) can be the one that takes home the win. Having to learn to quiet my mind, and continually speak positively to myself despite a mistake during a crucial point, etc., has been the biggest struggle for me".
With the will to be the very best, Dana is eager to prove herself at her next major challenge - "I feel that I can compete with the best out there, so I would go so far as to say that anything is possible!"