Danny Denner’s legacy of love and laughter lives on—and so will his mother’s act of generosity. By making provisions for McLean Hospital in her will, Fran Denner has honored her son and the institution that improved his life.
Danny suffered from a complex set of psychiatric issues, and like many families, his parents struggled to find help for him. When things got really bad, his psychiatrist in their home state of Florida advised Fran and her late husband, Elliott, to bring Danny to McLean as soon as possible. Two days later, the family was on a plane to Boston.
Dr. Joe Flores, Danny’s psychiatrist at McLean, took care to involve his parents in treatment, teaching them the skills to communicate with Danny. Even as an experienced social worker, Fran sometimes felt overwhelmed and confused by Danny’s behavior.
“Dr. Flores gave us the tools to understand Danny and his particular issues,” said Fran. “Whenever I’d get a phone call from Danny that would upset me, I’d call Dr. Flores and he would talk me through the issue and explain what Danny was going through.”
Family involvement was a critical component of Danny’s individualized treatment plan. “Danny’s parents were so involved in his life and so motivated that it only made sense to integrate the family into his individual therapy,” said Dr. Flores. “What they brought to the table allowed a level of therapeutic work which was profoundly transformational for the whole family.”
Eventually, Danny had to discontinue his care at McLean and return to Florida, where Fran said they failed to find any clinical expertise that could help her son, whose multiple disorders made his treatment extremely complex. Despite the geographic distance, Dr. Flores remained connected to the family over many years, and Fran would occasionally reach out to him for guidance and support. Danny’s struggle continued for years, and he died tragically in 2007 at the age of 32.
Fran remains forever grateful to McLean for helping Danny and for supporting her and her husband in their own journey. “I am so grateful to McLean and Dr. Flores for the extra time with Danny that we wouldn’t have had otherwise. Those years were priceless,” she said.
To express her gratitude, Fran made a bequest to McLean through her will. With the role McLean played in Danny’s life, leaving a portion of her estate to the hospital felt right. Her gift will support McLean’s efforts to provide more families with the integrated therapy that is so crucial to helping them manage a loved one’s illness.
Today, McLean offers a variety of support services to families and loved ones, including parent support groups, symptom and condition education, and family therapy. A growing number of McLean clinicians are being trained in family therapy, and new and better ways to support families are continuously evolving.
“I’m just a grateful mother following her heart, and it leads to McLean,” Fran said. “Dr. Flores and McLean were a beacon in the roughest moments of our lives. He and McLean offered us refuge from the storm, and hope.”
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