Posted on May 23, 2023

Destiny by His Side: Grand Rapids EMT is Getting His Groove Back after a Stroke


It’s hard not to smile when you’re in the company of Lavell McDaniel. He’s got the kind of laugh that makes others laugh harder. His positivity lights up the room.

Ask anyone he knows, and they’ll tell you: Lavell knows how to boogie.

“Lavell likes to do little dances,” explained his wife, Destiny. “He got his nickname, el Boogie, from his friends.”

But Lavell’s knack for lifting others up goes beyond friends and family. Positivity and compassion are part of his life’s calling.

Committed to the Community

As an emergency medical technician with Life EMS, Lavell has dedicated his life to supporting patients during challenging times. EMTs like Lavell are committed to saving the lives, health and well-being of every member of the communities they serve. But what happens when heroes like Lavell become patients themselves?

This is Lavell’s story of resilience, hope, and the road to recovery after experiencing a stroke.

Experiencing a Stroke at Work

In December 2022, Lavell, 36, of Grand Rapids, experienced a stroke right after delivering a patient to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. His teammate discovered him in the back of the ambulance, and Lavell was rushed to Corewell Health Butterworth Hospital where he received life-saving care.

Lavell had suffered a massive stroke, and he was non-responsive. Eight days passed before Destiny heard his voice again.

Stroke Rehabilitation at Mary Free Bed

Destiny chose Mary Free Bed for Lavell’s inpatient stroke rehabilitation. Supported by a dedicated rehabilitation team, Lavell spent more than two months at Mary Free Bed regaining his physical strength and mobility. The stroke had left him with significant challenges, including aphasia.

Coming from a profession where resilience is crucial, Lavell stood out out as a shining example of unwavering optimism.

The Power of Music Therapy

During Lavell’s rehabilitation, music therapy played a crucial role in his progress. Destiny discovered its potential when she played their wedding song one day. Lavell instantly perked up and started singing.

Music had a profound impact on Lavell, lifting his spirits and unlocking memories. Guided by the expertise of Peter Muszkiewicz, a Mary Free Bed music therapist, Lavell’s therapy sessions incorporated music, providing motivation for his physical and speech therapies. The beat of the music helped him improve his walking ability, and he found it easier to express himself through words.

“Lavell’s connection with music was clear from the get-go,” explained Peter. “With music, we got to tap into something that was intact.”

As Lavell made improvements in physical therapy, his team could begin to combine therapies, using music as motivation. Hearing the beat would help Lavell walk better, and he could access his words easier.

Music therapy! I didn’t know that was a thing; I didn’t know that was an option. If you give a little melody or tap out the word, he can do really well. Since we’ve gotten here to Mary Free Bed, the songs just keep on coming. Now he’s dancing and singing. – Destiny

A Support System for Caregivers

As Lavell focused on his therapies, Destiny received invaluable support as his caregiver. Through caregiver education sessions with Mary Free Bed art therapist, Libby Smith, Destiny learned the importance of focusing on her own well-being.

I’m learning to give myself some love and self-care. So I can come back refreshed and give Lavell the best care I can. Libby says being a caregiver is like being on an airplane. When the emergency masks come down, you have to put yours on first. Then you help the person next to you. You can’t care for others without caring for yourself. – Destiny

Recovering from a stroke is a give and take – and Destiny and Lavell lean on each other to stay motivated. As Lavell’s speech progressed, he found words of motivation that inspired not only himself, but others.

Destiny had shirts made up that reflected the “catch phrases” Lavell coined during his inpatient physical therapy sessions:

“One, two, three,” energized him to stand.

“Okay, okay, okay,” signaled it was time to embrace a challenge.

Graduation & Celebration

After seven weeks of interdisciplinary therapies, Lavell celebrated his progress with a joyous graduation tunnel before transitioning home. Wearing t-shirts emblazoned with his motivational catchphrases, Lavell was surrounded by the cheers and support of his rehabilitation doctors, therapists, nurses, fellow patients and loved ones.

In April, the  celebration continued. Lavell attended an awards ceremony and was honored for his five years of service with Life EMS.

“Lavell’s friends and Life EMS colleagues came to visit him every day. His supervisors came, his co-workers came, even some people who had never personally worked with him came to visit. We are so grateful for that.” – Destiny

Getting His Groove Back

With Destiny by his side, Lavell shared his message to others who may face similar, challenging recovery journeys. And his advice was spoken like a true EMT:


“This is my life, and it’s a special one … I have to keep fighting.”

Lavell continued his stroke rehabilitation therapy at home with Mary Free Bed Home Services. He’s since transitioned to Mary Free Bed stroke outpatient therapy, working to add a little more boogie to his step and speech every day.

And that’s music to our ears.

Destiny and Lavell would like to thank those who have helped Lavell get his groove back, saying: “We are deeply thankful for the family members and friends who would visit and play games with him. Every minute spent with Lavell made a difference.”



It’s National Emergency Medical Services Week: EMS is where emergency care begins.

May 21 – 27, 2023, marks the 49th annual National EMS Week. In 1974, President Gerald Ford authorized EMS week to celebrate EMS practitioners like Lavell and his team and the vital work they do to save lives in communities across our nation.  Learn more.

Stroke Rehabilitation at Mary Free Bed

The Mary Free Bed Inpatient Adult Stroke Specialty Program is CARF-accredited. Learn more about our leading stroke rehabilitation outcomes here. It’s your choice to decide where you receive outstanding stroke rehabilitation therapy and care. Ask For Mary.