April 10, 2019

Remember Dee Thomas from ‘What’s Happening!!’? Life Dealt Her a Bad Hand 3 Different Times

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Danielle Spencer, best known for playing tattletale Dee Thomas in “What’s Happening” survived several life-threatening episodes but still managed to live a full life. Her inspiring story is proof that no amount of setbacks should hinder one from self-growth.

Not many people can tread the life Danielle Spencer lived but she did and we salute her for that. From an innocent child doing justice to her role as Dee Thomas in “What’s Happening,” she was thrust into a series of health scares that no one person should ever have to live through in a lifetime. 



At 11, Danielle figured in a car crash that left her critically ill. She was in a coma for three weeks and suffered a broken leg, arm, and pelvis. Her stepfather who was with her during the crash on the Pacific Coast Highway died. Also as a result of the accident, Danielle’s face registered injuries and they had to be covered up with her hair as she continued to play Dee on screen. 

Danielle managed to live a normal life after that incident. Since leaving the show, she continued with her studies and earned a veterinary degree. She was a vet for 22 years in Los Angeles. 



But life had more obstacles in store for her. In 2003, she was shopping in Macy’s when she just fell to the ground. She would later learn that she had a spinal illness which was still a result of her injuries from the accident. To treat her, doctors removed a calcified disc but she was left paralyzed from the waist down. She was strapped to a wheelchair for years. 

The impediment could have easily led Danielle to wallow in sorrow at home but the fighter that she was, she found a way to continue working in her condition. She operated on animals sitting down. 



Years later, Danielle began to walk again, thanks to physical therapy. She married David David and planned to move closer to her mother in Richmond to spend more time with her in her old age. But fate had something else planned. Before her move, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy.

At that point, Danielle admitted, “it was definitely one of the worst times in my life.” She explained, “You feel helpless. You can’t do what you want to do. It leads to depression.” But she found a lot of support from friends and family and that made a lot of difference.



Today, the 53-year-old is recovering from another setback that occurred last year. Doctors discovered a bleeding hematoma that had to be relieved through brain surgery. They suspect the condition was also a result of her injuries in the car accident decades ago. 

The surgery caused Danielle to lose her memory and ability to walk. She’s under physical and occupational therapy and hopes to regain her memory as well as walk again. But if that isn’t successful, she will have to live in a rehabilitation facility. 

Many have been praying for Danielle and she expressed her gratefulness for the support she’s getting through a GoFundMe page. 




Danielle’s life may have been struck with tragedy after tragedy but she managed to make a mark through her career and passions. During her appearance in Oprah Winfrey’s “Where Are They Now?,” she delighted in the recognition she received in the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington. She was honored as the first black female child to star in a TV series. A book she authored, “Through The Fire…Journal of a Child Star,” was placed on display in the museum along with a script from her 70s show.  


Due to her extensive experience with physical therapy and acupuncture as well as veterinary expertise, Daniel also ventured into hosting a weekly “Pet Tips” segment on WTVR’s “Virginia This Morning.”

Through the years, Danielle continued acting and appeared in several films and television shows. She was in 1997’s “As Good as It Gets,” and 2001’s “Peter Rabbit and the Crucifix.” She was also a recurring character in “Days of Our Lives.” 

What a life story Danielle has and we know for certain that her story is far from over. Her latest health setback is just another fight she’s destined to win. We’re praying that victory will soon be in her grasp.