By Guest Blogger Rachelle Friedman
There are very few moments that can happen in one’s life that can change everything forever. In a split second, your relationships, job, finances, home, clothes, independence and many other things can change. One moment gone terribly wrong and everything is different.
On May 23, 2010, just weeks before my wedding, I was playfully pushed into a pool by my best friend at my bachelorette party. It was my mother’s birthday. I hit the bottom of the pool head first, breaking my neck and causing a severe spinal cord injury. I thought stuff like this just wasn’t supposed to happen to people like me, especially at a time like that. I had to face the fact that I was now paralyzed from the chest down and would be a C6 quadriplegic for the rest of my life.
My husband-to-be was camping three hours away with his father when my accident happened. He was contacted by a sheriff and park ranger, and they were told to pack up immediately; there had been a family emergency. Never could he have guessed the news he was about to hear when he called home. Shock confusion and fear overtook him and he broke down. He knew things would never be as carefree and easy as they had been.
However, Chris stuck with me through it all, which came as no surprise to me. I was in a wheelchair, but I was still the same girl he fell in love with in college five years earlier. Neither one of us were willing to break something so perfect because of a physical accident. It may sound corny, but we need each other. He truly is what gives me strength and keeps me going.
The media was soon captivated by our story. My email was flooded with interview requests and the phone was ringing off the hook! I thought surely people were only interested in my desire to persevere and this intense and rare story of love. But they were also interested in the best friend. They wanted to know who did it. I was appalled that anyone would ask me something like that. There was no respect for the fact that this girl was suffering emotionally. The accident didn’t just happen to me; it happened to the both of us. I didn’t blame my friend, so why was the media being so judgmental? That situation has been the most difficult part of the accident. I never had any anger toward my friend, as it was just an accident and the roles could have easily been reversed.
I did appear on multiple national news shows such as Inside Edition, HLN and The Today Show. The story eventually focused on my positivity and desire to keep living my life, with Chris by my side of course. It was now a story within itself of my loyalty to my friend. I quickly became known as “The Paralyzed Bride” and the media couldn’t get enough. But the things that some people would write in the comments were troubling. They said ugly things about my friend and they questioned Chris’ desire to stay with me.
Some people think, “He’s going to spend his whole life doing EVERYTHING for her!” Why do people assume I’m so helpless?! Sure I need help with things, but I can shower by myself, transfer in and out of bed alone, get dressed and undressed and of course, I learned how to put my own makeup on. But regardless, you stand by the person you truly love, even if it means helping them sometimes.
People in the comments would also say, “How could any guy stay with a girl in a wheelchair? I mean men have needs.” News flash, world…people who have disabilities are sexual beings, too! I plan on getting pregnant and having a child in the future. This is a scary thing for me since there are so many medications I’m taking right now that I’d have to stop taking if I got pregnant. Some of those pills are for severe nerve pain, while others are to keep my blood pressure from dropping too low. I wonder if I will be a good mother, but I know able bodied women have that fear, too.
I’ve gotten letters from all around the world from people who are so impressed with Chris and me, but they don’t know our whole story. I do think they are curious to know the dynamics of our relationship and the reality of our lives. The life of someone with paralysis is so foreign to many, especially the life of someone with paralysis like I have. I go out with my friends in sexy dresses, I play wheelchair sports, I’m intimate and confident. But the media did sort of depict the situation as if Chris and I never had bad moments, as if I’d never broken down, cried and wished for everything to just stop and go back to the way things were before. I do have these sad, negative and dark moments, but I choose not to define my life by them. Someone will always have it worse than you.
I’ve decided to live life as best I can. I play wheelchair rugby, and I’ve tried handcycling, waterskiing and surfing! My new goal is to get back into tennis, a sport I played for 20 years. I also plan on continuing my fight to bring awareness to spinal cord injuries through public speaking. Things will never be the same. When things get hard, I try to think about all of the things that were NOT taken from me. I still have my friendships and the love of my life. And I’m SO thankful every day for that.
Please check me out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/rachelleandchris and on Twitter at @followrachelle. There will be many updates coming up including information about my book that will be on the shelves next year!