June 11, 2015 – the night that changed my life. We hear about them all the time – sudden tragedies, horrible accidents – but they happen to someone else. Until they don’t.
“I think I broke my back.” I received that call from my husband on a Thursday evening while packing for a trip to the beach to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary. We were married late in life – fifty and sixty-one. We dreamed of sunsets and walks on the beach. Companionship for our older years, after we raised our respective families. We have eight children and nine grandchildren between us!
The motorcycle accident changed everything. My husband had severed his spine. Until you receive THE CALL, you have no idea how you’ll handle the news or the depth to which life will be forever altered. Suddenly, I was married to a paraplegic. I had no idea what was in store for me.
On drugs for the pain, my husband became a different person. Our marriage was challenged. He brought his ex-wife into his medical care and took me out of the equation. Then he asked for a separation.
My coping mechanism is to write. So, I wrote, daily, copiously pouring out my feelings, pain, and confusion onto paper. This would later be turned into my book, Better Than Before: One Couple’s Journey After a Tragic Accident, available here: https://www.amazon.com/Better-Than-Before-Couples-Accident/dp/B09XT6H9H7.
Six years! It took me six years to write my book. The subject was so painful that I had to keep putting it down and walking away. Each time I wrote a chapter, I relived the experience.
When the drugs were out of my husband’s system, he realized the damage he wrought. He wanted to stay married and I wasn’t ready to give up. Our marriage survived, largely because of my faith. When I prayed, I clearly heard, “Hang in there. It will be better than before.” Eventually, we moved into a beautiful condo together where most of my book was written.
One day, while reading one of my chapters, my husband put the pages down and said, “I had no idea what you were going through.” I had a side to the story and I needed to tell it. The caregiver, the wife, has a story to tell. And I wanted to help others, through my story. I knew nothing of the medical community. Had no idea they would release him from the hospital less than a week after his accident. That I would be responsible for choosing a spinal cord rehab for him. Where do I begin?
These are the kinds of questions I wished I’d had answers to. If I can make someone’s life easier by giving them information that I didn’t have, through reading about our experience, I will have made a positive difference in someone’s life. I added a list of Spinal Cord Injury Resources to the back of the book. A short list to get started, as opposed to the four-inch-thick tomb I was handed. I also offer insights into paraplegic life on Instagram at Adiciccoauthor.
The story hits many areas that we all deal with – grief, marriage challenges, and family conflict. These universal themes resonate with most of us. I hope to connect with readers on an emotional level as well as show situations that some may one day face.
My husband and I reach out to the community to tell our story and offer hope, and encouragement. There is life after tragedy, after Spinal Cord Injury. That’s the message of the book and I’m so grateful to Authors Lounge for the opportunity to share our story! My husband is fully independent now and can drive, and cook and he even sails with CRAB (Chesapeake Regional Accessible Boating.)
I’ve been interviewed for several caregiver podcasts and continue to look for ways to help partners and caregivers of those with spinal cord injuries. It’s a unique challenge. It’s daily, unrelenting, and exhausting. We must learn to take care of ourselves so we can take care of our family members.
I also want to share how deeply grief affects us and how long it can continue. Almost eight years later, I am still grieving. I’m not sure it will ever go away. Grief and forgiveness have long lives. I deal with both daily.
The second book is in the works, which will fill in the missing pieces that were left out of the first book, particularly how we ended up staying married and what our first year living together looked like after the accident. We’ve had many requests for that information!
I began journalling in seventh grade and dreamed of being a published author. This book is a dream come true. In addition to writing, I am an artist. Pouring myself onto canvas is another way to process all of the feelings that I have!
My blog at theitaliangrandmama.com offers videos of my husband demonstrating how to transfer and how put on shoes and other daily tasks. There’s even a few of us dancing! Check it out and share your thoughts with me!