Caregivers Community

A Beautiful Life After Spinal Cord Injury

Gina Flores
Caregiver Advocate | Shield HealthCare
03/19/12  7:25 PM PST

Shield HealthCare Caregiver Story Spotlight | 2011 “What Makes Caregiving Rewarding?” Contest

Story by Ema B.

“My husband kissed me good-bye to visit his mother on a Sunday morning. He whispered to me, “I love you, let’s have brunch later.” I smiled and turned over to go back to sleep. Hours later, I was awakened by a phone call. “Hello,” I said. “Mrs. B.” ‘Yes?” I said. The strange voice on the other end said, “Your husband has been in a car accident. We need you to come to the emergency right away.”

I raced to the hospital in dirty jeans and a pajama top. I parked my car and ran down a long hallway that did not seem to have an end point. My father-in-law was waiting on the other end. I finally reached him and he handed me a paper bag. He said, “These are his clothes. They had to cut them off him and…the doctors say he will never walk again.” I didn’t understand what he was saying to me. I emptied the clothes onto the floor and said, “You’re lying, there’s not even any blood on these clothes. Why are you lying to me?” I pulled away from him clutching the empty bag. My father-in-law grabbed my hand as if to stop himself from falling and said, “The Lord is my Shepherd and I shall not want…”

When I saw my husband, he was on a ventilator and was paralyzed from the neck down. He was on life support for three months. It was in the last month that they tried to wean him off the machine. Everything was going well until I watched him whisper I love you as his lips turned blue and his skin became pale. I ran to the nurses station. The nurses had already grabbed the crash cart. Lights were flashing and someone said, “Get him back on the ventilator now!”

Richard was finally weaned off life support, his tracheotomy healed and he learned to speak again. He was in rehab for two months and started to have limited movement in his arms. It was time for him to come home. I worked full-time and took care of him full-time until my job laid me off. I was stressed in the beginning but I realized it was the best thing that could have happened. He thrived after I lost my job.  He started to feed himself. I started us on an organic and holistic diet. We both lost weight and he willed himself into a manual wheelchair.

It has been nine years since his accident and he is up to 5 miles a day in his manual chair. His hospital stays are almost non-existent. We had to downsize our lifestyle, but we are happier. He has even started a social networking website for survivors of spinal cord injury, pushrim.com. When you see someone you love almost die, you will do anything so that does not happen again. And when he sees me standing in the kitchen with my head bowed praying for strength, he wiggles his chair and holds his arms out and says, “dance with me.” I turn on some jazz, sit on his lap and we dance. When I put my head on his chest and I hear his heart beating strong, all the sacrifice and loss seem to melt away. My reward is looking into my husband’s eyes and knowing that even though our lives have changed, he is still the same guy that stole a kiss on our first date.”

Thank you, Ema for sharing this beautiful story about your husband’s spinal cord injury recovery.