Daniel Doke is the first to admit that he has an “adrenaline vein.” At the age of 21, he skateboards, snowboards, kiteboards, surfs—anything with a board. But in his words, he’s “all about doing these sports with a lot of caution”—and, of course, the correct protective helmets and gear.
One might say he wasn’t always as cautious—or perhaps chalk it up to being an adventurous young boy—but Doke’s need for the rush almost cost him his life at the age of 13. The Palos Verdes native was out with his friends, free-climbing the area’s steep cliffs, including a wall, a cement drainage pipe and a cement ramp.
With his cousin waiting below, Doke climbed to the top but on the way down slipped on water. He fell 10 feet down into the drainpipe, which acted as a waterslide, shooting him out to a 30-foot drop below.
In and out of consciousness after that, Doke’s cousin went to get his father, mother and younger brother, Austin. The family tried to call 911, but gave up due to bad reception.
So Doke’s father and some friends carried him through brush and trees to the family van and drove him to Torrance Memorial Medical Center. “They kept talking to me in the car to try and keep me awake,” says Doke.
Doke was immediately taken into the Emergency Department at Torrance Memorial, where he was treated by emergency medicine physician
Eric Nakkim, MD. Doke received 10 stitches in his head. (He would later get seven additional staples.)
He also had a chest tube put in for a punctured lung. In addition, Doke suffered a broken hip, a torn rotator cuff in his shoulder and hemorrhaging in the brain.
In total, he spent one night in the ICU and then another five in a hospital bed. Due to his age and severity of the injuries, after initially being stabilized at Torrance Memorial he was transferred to the Miller Children’s Hospital in Long Beach. Doke briefly went home and then returned to the hospital with pneumonia and a staph infection under his arms.
Though Doke says his full recovery took between six and eight months, he laments at how the injuries come back when he’s trying to do his favorite sports. Though he went on to run track at Palos Verdes High School, he found it hard on his knees, hips and back.
And while he always had asthma, he now finds it is worse. On cold mornings, the left side of his chest tightens up.
The fearless young man lists these injuries as if they are a small price to pay to keep up the adventure. Doke surfed for three years in high school and now, at Santa Clara University, he is on the snowboard team. For recreation he waterskis, participates in Motocross and climbs—but only indoors now.
But don’t discount Doke’s intellectual side. The mechanical engineering student has always been a serious thinker and builder. He grew up going to his father’s plastics company and still works there summers.
He speaks with high regard about his father’s work and the business, Foam Molders Incorporated (FMI), which makes products such as foam padding for rides at Disneyland, fake palm trees for cell phone towers, and the armrests in Boeing 747 planes. The company was started by Doke’s grandfather, and in hopes of carrying on the family tradition, he decided to earn his degree in Northern California, down the street from Silicon Valley.
“I was always building stuff,” says Doke. In high school he joined the engineering club and founded the solar car club. The idea started with a few friends who after school went to FMI to build electric race cars.
Since then, his interest in electronics, building and working with wood has only grown. “The car I’m driving right now—I built myself,” he says.
Still, with all of his academic and physical accomplishments, what Doke survived is not lost on him. He still goes back to the Emergency Department at Torrance Memorial every few years, taking a tray of sandwiches to the staff and extending a thank-you to Dr. Nakkim.
“He’s the one that saved my life. He did everything,” says Doke. “He’s just a great guy.”