Editor’s Note: Rachelle and Chris Chapman knew that they were going to stay together and get married, even after her spinal cord injury. Although they couldn’t afford a wedding, a honeymoon, a house payment and living expenses, they both charged bravely into the unknown. Part 5 of a 5 part series.
“To be honest, I was scared about what I would do with my life, since I couldn’t walk,” Rachelle remembers. “The accident happened just over 2 years ago, and I’m still on the path of learning what I am going to do.” Rachelle spent 2 ½ months in rehab. Her life was changed dramatically into a whirlwind of activities after rehab: her story went viral. She was on NBC’s “The Today Show” twice as well as “Inside Edition.” The story of the young woman being injured at her bachelorette party and no longer able to walk was picked up by news media worldwide, and because of the media exposure she received, the “Today Show” offered to pay for her wedding and her honeymoon. “I didn’t want a live televised wedding,” Rachelle says. “When “The Today Show” does a wedding, the viewers get to pick the elements for the wedding. You can only have a 5-minute ceremony because it is filmed live and has to fit in between commercials. We wanted a more relaxed wedding than what they were offering. Instead, a wedding planning company, 1-800-Registry, offered to pay for our wedding and our honeymoon. So, we planned our wedding for July 2011. Sponsoring our wedding and honeymoon was good publicity for 1-800-Registry, but I know they just wanted to help out when they saw how much in love we were. Their company helps brides find vendors like photographers, videographers, florists and all the other services that a bride may need. You also can set up a honeymoon or home registry so people can send money for those purposes instead of buying gifts.” On July 22, 2011, Rachelle and Chris were married and then honeymooned in Fiji. Chris and Rachelle came home to the reality of Chris teaching school, and Rachelle still trying to decide what was next in her life.
“Before the wedding, I had a lot going on. Places to go, things to do, interviews to give, and a wedding and honeymoon to plan,” Rachelle explains. When I got home from the honeymoon, even though I was on a newlywed high, reality set in, and I realized I didn’t have anything to do. I couldn’t afford rehab and I was bored and having a tough time mentally.” Today Rachelle has limited function from her neck down and zero hand movement. She can use her arms and move her wrist. According to Rachelle, “I still have friends over, and Chris and I still do many of the fun things that we did before I got hurt. I try to get out, be social and live my life. I’d really love to work again, but that means finding a job I can do from a wheelchair.
“I would go back to school, but mostly I would love to have a family. My clock is ticking and I’d love to start my family right now. Most people don’t know that paralysis doesn’t change my possibility for having a child. It’s not the paralysis that’s keeping me from being pregnant right now, but the injury did cause low blood pressure and neuropathic pain. I am on medicine for my blood pressure and for my pain. While on these medications, you’re not supposed to get pregnant, so to get pregnant, I’ll have to get off these meds. This is a very difficult decision because I don’t know what the pain will be like or what will happen to my blood pressure. There are a lot of medical decisions to be made, before I get pregnant.
“If I could afford it, I would consider having a surrogate. That way I wouldn’t have problems with the meds. But I don’t want the burden of taking care of the baby to be on Chris; he doesn’t need to be the only one getting up in the middle of the night taking care of the baby. So, I am also working on becoming more independent. Although I can get into the bed by myself, getting out of the bed is very difficult. I don’t know if I could get out of the bed at night to take care of a baby. The good news is I have a lot of family support, and many people who would come and help us.”
It has been just over 2 years from the time of the accident, so Rachelle and Chris really haven’t had much time to decide their long range plans. Everything is up in the air for them right now. Rachelle has often considered being a rehab counselor. As she explains, “I could help people get though difficult situations in their lives using the knowledge from my own experience. The first thing I would recommend to anyone who has a spinal cord injury is to immediately get involved with a support group. I have made some of the best friends I ever have had playing quad rugby on a wheelchair rugby team. I went to my first rugby practice 13-weeks after I broke my neck. I watched the movie “Murderball” in college and wrote a paper on wheelchair rugby. I saw how much fun people in wheelchairs had playing that sport, so I decided to try it. I’ve always been very competitive; I like the workout I get, and I enjoy the camaraderie. The big advantage for me in playing wheelchair rugby is that it gives me the opportunity to be around people in wheelchairs who have had much more experience living in wheelchairs than I have had.”
About the Author: For the last 12 years, John E. Phillips of Vestavia, Alabama, has been a professional blogger for major companies, corporations and tourism associations throughout the nation. During his 24 years as Outdoor Editor for “The Birmingham Post-Herald” newspaper, he published more than 7,000 newspaper columns and sold more than 100,000 of his photos to newspapers, magazines and internet sites. He also hosted a radio show that was syndicated at 27 radio stations; created, wrote and sold a syndicated newspaper column that ran in 38 newspapers for more than a decade; and wrote and sold more than 30 books. Learn more at http://www.nighthawkpublications.com