What I Now Know: Elena Pauly

Posted by Reeve Staff in Life After Paralysis on September 25, 2019 # SCI Awareness

Dear Elena,

Today you will wake up and wonder “what’s next?”

The last thing you remember is packing your bags to go on a beautiful winter vacation with your boyfriend. A vacation that you thought would be magical and relaxing. Yesterday, we were laying on the beach, drinking out of coconuts, the ocean as blue as raspberry Kool-Aid and sand as white as snow. Yesterday, we rang in 2016 and made each other promises that we would share for the rest of our lives. Yesterday, everything seemed so carefree and simple.

Today, we are in a local Cuban hospital waiting to hear back from the embassy. I know that Dan’s dive into the pool is serious. When I jumped into the pool and began running my nails across his body, asking him if he could feel or move his limbs- that was a tell-tale sign that it was serious. The Cuban doctors are trying to figure out how to decompress his spine right now. They have drilled two bolts into the side of his head with some sort of apparatus trying to pull his neck away from his spine. You’ve called his family, you’ve called the embassy, you’ve called your family and informed them of the injury. You’ve done the right thing. You’re staying organized. Try not to cry too much in front of Dan. You are the only one who can do anything for both of you right now and you have to be strong. Tomorrow, you will take a four-hour taxi ride, through the middle of nowhere, and back to the resort and get your own medication so you don’t pass out. It’s impossible to think that you can leave Dan here but you have to take care of yourself or else you’re no good to anyone else. I know you’re scared. Scared of the uncertainty, of what’s going to happen next, when will you go home? Is anyone coming to get you? When will Dan’s surgery happen? Should you allow it to happen here? Get some sleep and try to be as calm and as strong as you can for tomorrow.

A week later and after Dan underwent a C4-C6 fusion, we landed back on Canadian soil…

Something I would tell myself now, three years after that day is, it’s going to be okay. It’s going to be more than okay and you both will be okay. You will make a new life for yourselves and you will be happy, happier than you ever were before. You will find a new system that works and in a very short time, life will make more sense and have more meaning. One day, you will stop and realize how strong you’ve had to be for the both of you and you will impress even yourself. You will realize that even if you could, you would never take any of it back. You will be at peace.



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