By Julianne LaSmith
Fighting between siblings is a very ordinary thing. Most of us grew up battling our brothers and sisters over small things, and large things. Hurting each other is just part of that equation. “Sure. I think you can jump down a two story stairwell and land on your feet. Go ahead and try it.” Or “Oh, it’s fun to stand up in the wagon while I pull you down the driveway.” Those two statements explain my personal inventory of stitches.
Just a normal phase of growing up, I guess. But Daniel Sorensen, PA-C, used his sibling in-fighting to direct his path in life. A bad decision that his brother made directed Daniel to his career in medicine.
Daniel was the 4th of 5 boys born to his parents in Blackfoot, Idaho. The boys were all very active; fighting and roughhousing were just part of life. When Daniel was four-years-old he was underneath the family trampoline when one of his brothers decided to jump on it, subsequently landing on Daniel. He remembers running into the house holding his head and telling his mom that it hurt. She had him lie down and rest. His brother took off, as he knew he was in deep trouble.
An hour or so later Daniel’s mom noticed that his head and neck alignment didn’t look right. After a physician neighbor weighed in on the decision Daniel was taken to the Primary Children’s Hospital (PCH) in Salt Lake City. Diagnosis? His 2nd cervical vertebrae was broken (the same one that breaks when a body is hung!).
By all accounts Daniel should have died or been paralyzed from his injury. They fit him with a halo fastened with 4 screws into his head, and sent him home. Not long after, while his parents were on a date, Daniel broke the halo off and scared his babysitter quite a bit. His parents took him back to PCH again and had the halo re-set. “I managed to not break the halo again and had a speedy recovery. Because of the grace of God and medical intervention I’m alive, walking, and without issues.” said Daniel.
Medicine had major effects on his whole family. As an infant, one of his brothers contracted spinal meningitis. Due to excellent medical intervention he overcame the illness (and was around to break Daniel’s neck 8 years later!). Another brother had to have multiple surgeries as an infant due to GI issues. All of the boys had multiple broken bones, cuts and/or ridiculously close calls all necessitating medical intervention. Daniel’s mother told him that they would reach their family’s insurance deductible in March or April before they could even get out of the house to enjoy the good weather.
After his experience at PCH, Daniel found that he loved medicine and hoped that he could work in it one day. After a 2-year mission for the Mormon Church, Daniel started college at Utah State University. He enjoyed Science and even shadowed several physicians in his studies. But studying didn’t come easy for Daniel so he decided that perhaps teaching would be a better career for him. He earned his Bachelors of Science and became certified to teach all sciences 6th grade and up in Idaho.
Unfortunately his graduation date coincided with a crash in the local economy and fewer teachers were retiring, leaving Daniel without a full-time job. When a position finally became available that Daniel considered to be his “Dream Job”, he quit applying for other opportunities and waited to hear if he had secured the job. Due to unforeseen issues, they were not able to approve the hire and Daniel was devastated. He decided he would get a Masters and so he set off looking for his “Plan B”.
One day a close friend of Daniels mentioned that he would make a great Physician Assistant (PA) and that he should consider pursuing it. Until then Daniel had never heard of the position or what they did. He started working in the health industry for additional experience, enrolled in school and applied for PA school. The following year he started the PA program at Idaho State University in Pocatello, Idaho.
For 2 years Daniel woke up between 2-4:00am, and was the first to arrive at school 30 minutes away, studied and attended class until 5-5:30pm, went home, had dinner with his family, played with his kids and then let his family tuck him in around 8:00pm. Although the days were long and exhausting, the course work intense, he persevered and graduated from Idaho State University with a Master’s degree in Physician Assistant Studies.
Prior to his graduation Daniel and his wife, Chelsea started looking for their dream community in which he could start his medical practice. Havre caught their attention because of its catch-phrase, “Havre – It’s the People”. After he and Chelsea came for a visit they were sold on the facilities at Northern Montana Health Care and loved all of the opportunities Montana would afford his family.
They moved to Havre in October of 2015 and have enjoyed the small-town, easy-going lifestyle. They all enjoy going to the Bear’s Paw and hiking, playing in the creek and getting outdoors. They feel that the school system is fantastic and their twin girls, Aubrie and Alivia appreciate the class choices and extracurricular available at the middle school. Their oldest son, Hudson enjoys Kindergarten and loves catching snakes and salamanders. Three-year-old Greyson is impressed with the multiple parks and Gram’s Ice Cream and Candy Shop. And lastly, one-year-old Lincoln is happy to be Hi-line born and raised. Their family is truly pleased to be here in Havre.
More importantly Daniel feels that he absolutely made the best choice for his life by becoming a Physician Assistant. He enjoys getting to know his patients and helping them to live more healthful lives. Daniel is part of the Family Medicine Team at the Northern Montana Family Medical Center. Which is very good news for families with small children. Daniel can do stitches really well. Because kids will be kids!