When I was a little girl and people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always had the same answer…an author. There were never any dreams of being a princess or doctor, nor a butcher, baker or candlestick maker; I just wanted to write books. Throughout my life, there have been times that I pushed this idea to the wayside, but in the back of my mind I knew it was still something I yearned to accomplish.
When my husband was injured back in 2008, it became one of the most pivotal moments in my life. In a matter of moments, I was forced to contemplate everything my life had been, and try to figure out what it was about to become. I remember wishing there was some sort of guidebook that would help us through everything. A set of rules and regulations that would explain the ins and outs of the life we were about to undertake. Alas, there was nothing of the sort. Sure, there were books about individuals who had experienced the same types of injury that Ryan had, but I couldn’t find much that would benefit the family, friends and caretakers. As we made our way through this incredible journey, I decided that one day, I wanted to write that book. The kind of book that would explain how I felt in those first couple of weeks and months. Honestly, it would explain the way I still feel from time to time in the present.
I’ve started this process more times than you can imagine. I’ve constructed timelines and organizational charts. I’ve jotted down notes and memories. I’ve even written a chapter or two, but somehow the process has seemed too daunting to finish.
So I come to you all and ask for your support as I use this blog as a platform to try again. I feel that I’m at a place in my life where I’m desperate to put these words to paper. So if it’s all right with you, in the midst of the normal chatter about this and that, I’d like to bring you a few memories about one of the most inspiring times in my life.
Let’s start at the beginning shall we…
Ryan was over in Sao Paulo, Brazil performing at a water park called Hopi Hari. Suffice it to say, I wasn’t super excited about being away from him for the summer (that’s a story for another day), so he promised that we’d Skype each night before bed. The evening of July 19th, 2008, I sat in front of my computer at our usual time and anxiously waited for him to sign on. Minutes turned into hours, and he never got on the computer.
At first I tried reasoning with myself. I assumed that he and his friends had a late night, had gone to dinner…something of the sort. As the hours rolled by, reasoning turned into anger. I didn’t think a few minutes out of his day was much to ask for. Before too long, however, I started to get nervous.
I remember that I finally closed the computer around 2 or 3 am. I was up again by 7, and back to playing the waiting game. Sometimes, he’d get on before work in the mornings, and I was convinced that would be the case. By around 10, I was completely freaking out. I walked into the living room and told my mom that something wasn’t right. I was trying so hard to keep calm, but was failing miserably.
Within 10 minutes of telling my mom that I was worried, my cell phone rang. When I answered, Ryan’s dad was on the other end. He told me that there had been an accident. He couldn’t say anything else; the line got quiet and I assumed the worse. He couldn’t have been silent for more than 30 seconds, but it was the longest of my life. I remember dropping down to my knees and waiting. When he finally came back, he explained that Ryan was alive but that he couldn’t feel anything from the waist down. He was awaiting surgery at a hospital in Brazil, and since I didn’t have a passport, I was stuck in the states until he could make his way home.
Before that moment, I had no personal connection to paralysis. I couldn’t wrap my head around what I was being told, and tried to convince myself that this was a temporary situation. Never in my life, had I felt so terrified and confused. My mind was spinning with possibilities and I didn’t know what the first step I needed to take would be.
There is a quote that goes something like this, “You never know how strong you are, until being strong is the only choice you have.” Since that day, I have lived by that quote. I remember in the midst of the shock and sadness, that I knew I had to be strong. Between the two of us, Ryan had always been my rock. He was the one who constantly helped lift me up. In that moment, I knew that I had to muster every ounce of strength I had and help him move forward.
That accident changed our lives completely. Ryan is a true inspiration, and this experience has made me a better version of myself. We’ve had to push ourselves in more ways than you could ever imagine. Things are not always easy, but our life is more rich and beautiful for everything we’ve undergone.