EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The nightmare for the Santulli family began when they woke up at 1:27 a.m. on Oct. 20, 2021 to a phone call from an emergency room doctor in Missouri.
The doctor informed them that their son, Danny, was in the intensive care unit after suffering cardiac arrest.
Within minutes, the Santullis were in the car driving the seven-and-a-half hours to Columbia, Missouri. It’s a drive they'd taken almost exactly two months before when they moved Danny to the University of Missouri to start his journey as a Mizzou Tiger — just like his brother and sister before him.
But how that journey landed him in the ICU would not be clear to the Santullis for months. All they knew was that he'd been dropped off at the ER in cardiac arrest, not breathing.
Lawsuits would later reveal, it all started 12 hours earlier at a fraternity known as FIJI, and a party called "pledge dad reveal night."
Video from inside the fraternity that night shows Danny and his fellow pledges blindfolded, heading to the basement where, the Santullis allege, a night of hazing began.
“He was given a bottle of Tito's, and he was told to finish it within an hour,” Danny’s brother Nick Santulli said. “As young 18-year-olds, they’re intimidated by all these older kids and obviously you're going to listen to them and do that.”
You can see Danny on the video as the night progresses, stumbling and falling backward before someone grabs him and throws him on a couch. He slides off, headfirst, and is unable to get up.
It's unclear how much time passes before someone finally notices that Danny is in distress. But instead of calling 911, a few of the fraternity members pick him up, move him toward the door and struggle to get him in a car to drive him to the hospital.
For Danny’s parents, Mary Pat and Tom Santulli, one of the hardest questions surrounding that night is, when they saw Danny struggling, why didn’t someone call 911?
“When their lips are blue, that's I mean, that should have been their first indication that could have saved 15 minutes right there.” Mary Pat said. “I mean, the hospital is literally a block-and-a-half from the house."
The driver, they say, somehow got lost on the way to the hospital and only called 911 when he needed directions.
When Danny finally arrived at the ER he had a blood alcohol level of .468. The swelling of his brain was so severe it took seven weeks before he was stable enough to be moved to a hospital in Denver that specializes in brain injuries.
After six months, doctors told the Santullis they had done all they could. Danny could go home, but he could no longer walk, talk or see.
Their son's once bright future was snuffed out, they say, all because of one night of hazing.
“It is very difficult, you know. You think about that every day,” Mary Pat said, “You're like, when is this nightmare going to end? It is very hard to think that this totally could have been prevented and there's just a lot of arrogant kids that think they're above the law and think that the rules don't apply to them."
Eleven of those young men now face criminal charges ranging from misdemeanors to felony hazing.
The Santullis recently settled 24 civil lawsuits against individual members of the FIJI fraternity and its national chapter. The settlements will help pay for Danny's around-the-clock care that he will likely need for life.
It is painful for the Santullis to relive the events of last fall, but they shared their story because they don't want any other parent to get a phone call like they did in the middle of the night.
“We just wanted to make, you know, just create awareness out there,” Mary Pat said, “That this hazing is real and it’s deadly."
Mizzou's FIJI fraternity has since shut down.
As for Danny, the Santulis say they get calls from doctors and families around the country who hear Danny's story and want to help.
Danny's sister, Meredith, now a senior at Mizzou, has recently started an anti-hazing campaign.
If you'd like to support her efforts, click here.
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