Calgary man takes on dancing dino role to raise funds for sick wife

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If you happen to cross paths with an orange, inflatable dinosaur dancing about the streets, it’s worth stopping to say hi.

That’s because this isn’t just any random dancing dinosaur. Daniel Petke is dancing for his wife Brittni, 27, who suffers from a severe congenital condition called chiari malformation.

Causing the brain to swell and extend into the spinal canal, Petke said his wife is constantly in agony, having to cope with intense, daily pain and extensive nerve and muscle damage caused by the disease.

“She’s slowly gotten worse every day,” Petke said. “Everybody I tell about my wife’s condition they look at me like a crazy person because they’ve never heard of it. She’s basically dying and nobody seems to know what this is.”

Using a walker to get by, she can only move around for about 15 minutes before becoming incapacitated by crippling pain, Petke said. Because her brain has grown so rapidly into her spinal column, doctors have told the family his wife’s condition has become too advanced for life-saving surgery.

“She’s a trooper. She’s always trying to keep a smile on her face,” he said. “She’s definitely a warrior. Just to get out of bed in the morning I want to clap for her.”

Unable to work full-time to take care of his wife and son, Petke picks up odd jobs landscaping and doing snow removal. But between the costs of raising their five-year-old son and scrambling to come up with more than $1,000 a month for medical cannabis oil — which isn’t covered by insurance and is the only remedy helping Petke’s wife with her pain — the family is struggling to make ends meet.

That’s when Petke decided to hit the streets in full, inflatable dino gear to raise money for his family and spread awareness about his wife’s debilitating condition.

“There’s so many things I’d love to do for her,” he said. “I want a special house built for her one day so she has easy access. We can’t afford it, but I’d love to get her a power chair and a medical bed — that would greatly help her.”

On his first time out dancing the afternoon away in downtown Calgary, Petke said he met a young girl who approached him and said she was a chiari malformation survivor.

“She’d gotten her surgery and survived, so it was kind of neat to see that,” he said. “I’m hoping to get out and do this as much as I can.”

The Petke family made headlines almost a year ago when their son Kayden, who was four at the time, accidentally got on a CTrain without his parents.

For those interested in making a donation to the family, keep an eye out for Petke on the streets of downtown Calgary.

— With files by Jim Wells

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