IS story of impact: Alex Goldmeier

Posted by Anna Chamberlain in Daily Dose on May 13, 2019 # Health, Quality of Life

Debbie Goldmeier will never forget the early morning call phone call that is every parent’s worst fear. Her youngest son, Alex, had been in a skiing accident. Among his many injuries, he sustained a subdural brain hematoma, broken ribs, broken collarbone, broken wrist, a punctured lung, a T5-T6 dislocation and a T4 complete spinal cord injury. She will also never forget the phone call she received the following day.

“As a mom, I had tunnel vision on Alex. I needed to use all my strength to focus on getting him the best care,” said Debbie. “Everything was so emotional and overwhelming, yet I have the most vivid memory of sitting in the ICU conference room the day after his accident and having a two-and-half-hour phone call with Bernadette.”

Part of the Reeve Foundation’s highly trained Information Specialist team, Bernadette had heard about Alex’s accident through friends of the Goldmeiers who reached out to the Reeve Foundation.

“There wasn’t a question she didn’t answer,” said Debbie. “We were still grieving and in shock. She helped us organize our thoughts, prioritize next steps and make good decisions. She provided the focus and calm direction we desperately needed. She was a gift from God.”

As life-long volunteer, Debbie was used to giving help, not accepting it.

“For me, it was difficult to take the help that was offered,” said Debbie. “I vividly remember Bernadette talking about a wagon wheel with our family in the core and the spokes being extended family, friends and the community. She told us that if we don’t take the help from the spokes, the center would collapse. I kept this in mind through the whole process.”

Bernadette helped the family, which includes Alex’s father Steven, brother Jason and sister Julie, divide up responsibilities and work together as a team. Jason facilitated much of the overall logistics organization.

“Bernadette coached us through every step from keeping ourselves nourished and hydrated to what to expect at each stage of Alex’s recovery,” said Jason. “Her guidance ranged from helping process the initial trauma and understanding how to advocate for Alex’s medical care, insurance, and transportation, to identifying rehabilitation facilities and serving as a sounding board as we worked through every challenge and decision.”

After many weeks and several surgeries, Alex moved to Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colorado, for rehabilitation. While Alex continued his intense therapies, a team from the NBC show George to the Rescue renovated the family’s home in New York to create a new accessible and private space for Alex. Now the close-knit family is ready to start a new chapter.

“You have no reason to know or understand anything about a spinal cord injury until it hits you head-on,” said Jason. “We would not nearly be where we are today without Bernadette and the Reeve Foundation. We feel so grateful and lucky. The inspiration and honest, straight-forward support we received at every turn is a true reflection of the Foundation.”

The family also benefited from the Reeve Foundation website and other Paralysis Resource Center guides and materials.

“I read the Paralysis Resources Guide from front to back. It is like a Bible for how to survive life with paralysis,” said Debbie. “Everything the Reeve Foundation provided was so pertinent to what we were going through.”

In just over a year since Alex’s February 2018 accident, he has mountain biked, sailed, played tennis, and handcycled the Army Ten-Miler in Washington DC. Jason and Alex have also joined Team Reeve® and plan to participate in the 2019 TCS New York City Marathon. The brothers are both considering serving as peer mentors to pay forward the help they received.

“When your life is turned upside down and you need to relearn every aspect, it may be different, but you can still do anything want to do,” said Alex who is back in school working toward his PsyD in clinical psychology. “I am focused on what I have, not what I don’t. I am living a happy, fulfilling life and I am so grateful for all the support my family received.”

For Debbie, the hardest part now is letting her son be a 24-year-old again. “We are blessed in so many ways. I think my son’s story is such a success because of the Reeve Foundation. There is so much good in this world and people who have been behind us that we are grateful for. That combined support, inspiration, motivation is what brought us to where we all are together today.”