Remembering the Anniversary of One’s Injury | Reeve Blogger Heather Krill

Posted by Reeve Staff in Life After Paralysis on February 13, 2017 # Caregiving

January 29 marked the 22nd anniversary of my husband’s spinal cord injury, sustained in a snowmobile accident near North Conway, New Hampshire. He was 25 years old when he lost the use of his legs, but he will tell you he is the lucky one. He makes an effort each year on this day to do something extra awesome, reminding him how good life still is and can be again for others with similar levels of paralysis. This year, he spent the day with the Friends of Stowe Adaptive Sports and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital at Stowe Resort in VT leading a mono ski clinic for 15 sit down skiers. In his anniversary post, following a great day at Stowe, he writes, “Spending the day coaching and sharing with those who found life and independence through sliding down a hill lets me know my path was directed with purpose. I have the best job in the world. Thank you to those friends and family who support me and allow me to always LIVE out my passion.”

Injury or accident anniversaries mean different things for different people. Geoff told the story to our kids this year, and our son asked if he had done anything wrong. He hadn’t; the accident had been ice related, just a fluke that he had been the one to crash when they were in a group of 5. Our daughter asked if he was wearing a helmet. These are constant safety concerns now that our kids are taking jumps in the park on their skis and building ramps in the driveway for their bikes or sliding headfirst down the giant snow pile in the middle of our cul de sac. How will we keep them alive? These wild, outdoor children, for whom nothing seems scary or dangerous or not safe. This is difficult for a mom who was a cautious child, the worried sibling of the one who climbed too high in the tree or jumped off the roof into snow banks and flew through the air on skis smiling, not a lick of fear on his face.

As parents, we fear the broken bones and stitches and trips to the emergency room, and do not think, for one moment, that because Geoff has seen the worst by being paralyzed this is made easier. Yet the fear of further injury doesn’t prevent him from getting out on his ski or his bike alone or with friends. As his wife, I want to make sure his shoulders survive to old age. I want him to be able to transfer independently from the couch to his wheelchair to our bed for many years to come. The other day he was so comfortable on the couch and exhausted from a busy day, pushing around in fresh snow, I found him on the couch the next morning, still in his snow boots. This, I told him, was a problem.

We have a dear friend with an incomplete spinal cord injury who just can’t seem to catch a break these days with other injuries complicating life. First, a hip issue which did not heal as imagined causing him considerable pain, and then just when mending from the hip, an ankle injury sustained while cycling. Open wounds are so hard to heal when circulation is less than ideal to begin with. Other friends battle chronic pressure sores. Yet knowing this outdoor enthusiast who is dealing with crap luck again and again, he will be the last one to stay indoors once he is healed. When you love the outdoors, like our friend and Geoff do, you love it-- and you want to be out in it with your friends and your family all of the time. And when you live where we get to live in the White Mountains with beautiful rivers and lakes and forests, the fear of injury doesn’t keep you inside, even on the days you probably should take a rest inside.

My husband is a young 46; his blue eyes would lead you to believe he is still 25 looking to hop on his snowmobile headed wherever the trail takes him. However, he is hard on his body, and so we try to find the balance of Thoreau “sucking the marrow from life” with making sure our marrow, muscles and joints last a bit longer. I’m very proud of the road less traveled Geoff has taken now all these years ago now. He could have spent the last 22 years pissed off at the world for having taken away the power of his legs; but he hasn’t, and he doesn’t allow you to feel sorry for him either. So, tell your anniversary story, if you have one, to your kids and their friends. Stories are meant to be shared, and it’s Valentine’s Day after all, so the people you love will appreciate them even more.