Okay. So as a child I was blonde. Happy. Filled with lovable laughter.
Then I grew.
I got a job the very minute I could; when I was 15. I had to save my money for everything I wanted. Things were rarely given to me. Because of that, I've always worked hard. I remember one summer, I held three jobs. Three?! I'm amazed at the energy I once had.
While in college, I took a television communications class as a senior. Thank god I did, because I had no clue what I wanted to do as a career until I took this class. It was here when I professed I wanted to be a television news producer.
I started my news career at my hometown news station. I began on the early morning show working studio cameras. Then I did some editing and played tapes during the morning and noon broadcasts. But only for a month or so.
I then started training to produce the morning show. Putting the show together. Writing the news. Then sitting the booth, talking with production, weather and anchors. It was exciting... and at times, exhilarating. I will say, though, working in news builds character. It's tough work.
I feel like I grew up in the news biz, and I still have a news family to prove it.
I worked in news from 2003-2011. Two different stations. Both in South Carolina.
My last day as a news producer was Friday, August 5, 2011. I was on my way to work the following Monday when my life changed forever.
My husband of less than two months was in a traumatic, debilitating car accident.
A flying tire came at his windshield, his car flipped and that... as they say... was that.
Jimmy suffered a high-level spinal cord injury which paralyzed him from the shoulders down. He spent two weeks in the Neuro-ICU in Spartanburg, SC. His vitals would drop. Alarms would sound. He would wake and panic. He'd bite his breathing tube. He had a breathing tube. He had a feeding tube inserted into his stomach.
I sat while he slept in his hospital bed and watched the thick-pinkish supposedly nutritious liquid dispense slowly into him.
He couldn't talk. He couldn't eat. He couldn't breath on his own. My world had crumbled.
Everyday, the news got worse, at least in the beginning until we had the "final" diagnosis. I'm not even sure how I dealt with each dose of it. Maybe pure shock? I remember several different doctors sitting me down and giving me information and my brain trying to figure out what it all meant. I felt as if I needed a translator.
I remember sitting in the waiting room with a group of co-workers and a friend when first I learned he'd couldn't feel/move from his chest down. I lost it. I put my head in between my legs and sobbed uncontrollably. It was one of the first times I had just let go.
Two weeks after the crash, on August 23rd (my sister's birthday), Jimmy was flown to The Shepherd Center in Atlanta, GA.
I packed a suitcase for Jimmy. One for myself. I looked at all the get well cards I set on my counter. I looked around at the apartment we just moved into. I said goodbye, maybe then knowing I'd never be back.
We didn't return to the Upstate until almost a year later. My friends and family helped pack up our apartment and move us out.
We didn't return until June 2012 for a visit.
I'm convinced The Shepherd Center was the best thing we could have ever done for Jimmy. Several wise people in Spartanburg steered us in that direction knowing that. I'm so so glad.
The Shepherd Center is a catastrophic care hospital specializing in spinal cord and brain injuries.
They provided me with a place to stay on campus for the first month Jimmy was there. It was so important at that time that I be close to Jimmy, and yet so important to have a space of my own. I realize that now.
I was just a short walk away. When he would fall asleep at night I'd walk to my room. I spent many nights crying in my twin bed wondering if my neighbor could hear me.
Other nights I felt better while watching Mary Tyler Moore or Friends. Oh, how comedy got me through.
My dear childhood friend (the only person I knew in Atlanta) always had fresh flowers and food ready in my room. There was always mail stuffed under my door: get well notes and gifts for Jimmy and a lot of stuff for me surprisingly. Goodies, cookie baskets, Starbucks gift cards, care packages, girly stuff. It was nice to come "home" to stuff.
Jimmy was inpatient at The Shepherd Center for two months. Everyday he got a little more stable.
It was a trend that would continue.
Then, time to go home. I had to find us a new one of those. We decided to relocate to Atlanta. We wanted to keep his doctors and we wanted to be near The Shepherd Center. It was the most important thing.
The transitional team at Shepherd helped us with this massive undertaking.
We'd have an around the clock nursing staff. Nurses that weren't from Shepherd. That was hard. We were so used to The Shepherd Way. Transitioning into a home setting after being in the Shepherd safety bubble was one of the hardest times in my life.
A year and a half after the accident, I'm happy to report that we're learning how to live again.
I squeeze my husband around the neck and shoulders everyday. I'm so glad he lived. I'm not sure I would have, had he died.
Everyone kept telling me that, "It would get better." I wanted to slap them at the time, but I now know they were right.
An amazing support system practically carried us along the way.
Our family who came to help us. Our friends who stopped by. Complete strangers who did so much for us. So many people who organized fundraisers and the many more who donated.
We are in a better place because of you all.
Over the past year, I have been working on finding me again. Not being a caretaker, but being a wife. Stepping back and letting the nurses do their work.
I provide the hugs. They provide the gauze. Or something.