One day, when my husband was 75 days into his hospital stay, I walked out of his room to get food at the hospital cafeteria. When I was walking down the long hallway, I passed one of the Rehab nurses. She stopped, extended her arms and gave me a big hug. She reached down and grabbed my hand and said, “You have no idea how significant it is that you are here every day supporting your husband. I just wanted to tell you that, and thank you for hanging in there during this very difficult time.”
I didn’t think much about it at the time, but came to appreciate what she said to me that day. She relayed to me that families with spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries are at “high risk.” There is a higher risk for abandonment, and for relationships and marriages to crumble under pressure. Being a nurse in the Rehab Unit she witnessed many a family fall apart due to the incredible stress that is inherent with these kinds of injuries. For some, the magnitude and prospects of living life with an injured partner may be the precipitating factor. For others, it may be a struggle with image--wheelchairs and catheters, effort and inconvenience. There are even those cases where the dissolution of the relationship is initiated by the person who is injured, because that person doesn’t want to be a burden to their family.
The fact is we all have choices…both the able-bodied and the injured. We can leave and unchain ourselves from all of the responsibilities that comes with a catastrophic injury, or we can stay and choose the path of endurance, effort, loyalty, and commitment.
For me, the choice was simple. There was no pondering or hesitation. There were no regrets or second guessing. It wasn’t even a struggle. It was the quickest and easiest decision I’ve had to make over these past two years.
Isn’t everyone ultimately in search of the same thing in life…to be happy? Don’t we all strive to find that person who will love us unconditionally and accept us for who we are? Don’t we want someone who will make us smile and laugh and share in all of life’s greatest moments? For me, I found that person over 25 years ago.
Other than the fact that my husband's body doesn’t quite move the way it used to, he hasn’t changed as a person. He is still the same, wonderful, loving, funny, and generous person as he was before. Everything I've ever wanted in a person is right in front of me. I have a partner who is here; someone who is not distracted, someone who is engaged 24/7. He listens. He shares. He believes. He loves. He is.
Undoubtedly we have indeed experienced heartache and stress, that is and was to be expected. Yes, we have had many a crazy day. But even on our darkest days, my loyalty and commitment to Vaughn and our marriage is unwavering. Our experience has both strengthened and reinforced our relationship when it easily could have torn it apart.
And it is my wish always that for those that are faced with similar circumstances, that they find the strength and hope that they so desperately need and deserve, to move forward with peace and clarity.
“Love recognizes no barriers.
It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls
to arrive at its destination full of hope. "