I am so thankful for Lauren’s willingness to share with us today on this What It’s Like Series. As I read through her words, I couldn’t help but feel incredibly grateful for both her perspective and her encouragement and I think you will feel the same. Today Lauren is sharing with us what it’s like to have a spouse who is paralyzed and I hope you walk away with a new perspective on how to handle difficult situations that life throws your way.
Lauren, thank you for sharing!
How would you describe your spouse? Would you talk about their looks, their personality, maybe what they do for a living? Let me tell you about my husband. His name is Ryan. He sells crop insurance and also farms corn and soybeans. He is handsome, has an epic beard, great sense of humor, a heart of gold and is in a wheelchair. Wait, what? A wheelchair? Yes you heard me right, my husband is in a Wheelchair. You are probably wondering why he is in a wheelchair and what life is like for us, so here’s our story.
All it took was one phone call to forever change my life and the path that I was on, the path that we had planned. I was 22 years old. I was in college studying to be a dental hygienist, engaged to Ryan who was 26 and we had planned to be married September 2008. Little did we both know that the path that we had planned was far different then the path that God had planned for us. On February 23, 2008 both of our lives forever changed. I answered the phone to have my brother tell me that Ryan had been airlifted to St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester and that it wasn’t good. He knew he had a broken leg but he said it’s worse than that. Ryan and my brother had set out on their snowmobiles and were about five miles down the trail when Ryan overcorrected his sled around a curve and was thrown off and struck three trees. One with his leg, head and the last with his back. His injuries were a burst T5 which caused T4 and T6 to pinch his spinal cord, leaving him paralyzed from the mid chest down. He also cracked C2, tore all the ligaments in his neck, broken femur on his left leg, collapsed lung and a closed head injury. The following days Ryan had surgery to repair his spinal cord, his leg and was put on a ventilator. The doctors said he shouldn’t have survived his accident, let alone the surgery but he did. The following months were spent in the hospital getting out of ICU and into rehab for therapy to learn how to live life again being paralyzed.
At 22 and 26 years old we had to grow up fast. I knew life would be different, I knew life would be harder, but I never once thought that I didn’t want to marry Ryan because of his paralysis. You don’t love someone because they can walk, you love them for who they are as a person. Life has challenges but it’s how you handle them and overcome them that matter. Six months after Ryan’s accident I was in a head on collision that left me out of work for 6 months with some extensive damage done to my knee. 2008 was one heck of a year. Our wedding was postponed until July 7, 2010. We had a beautiful day and we thought that life could only go up from here. Just when we thought life could only get better, we started on the journey to start our family which lead to a three year on and off battle with infertility and IVF cycles, resulting in 3 failed transfers, 2 surgeries to remove uterine polyps and no children. Our marriage started to crumble after that.
We were both unhappy, both being selfish and both losing sight of what really mattered in life and that was God. On the verge of divorce we changed our priorities and gave our relationship to God. We placed Him back at the center of our relationship and everything changed for the better! On our wedding day we used two Bible verses that really have impacted us more than we expected in our life.
James 1:2-4, 12 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete not lacking anything. Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”
Romans 5:3-5 “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
Fast forward to current life: We are still happily married with our five month old son Silas. You are probably wondering what life is like with a husband who is in a wheelchair. Well it’s probably not that different than yours. I believe that everyone has their version of what is “normal” in their life. After Ryan got hurt, we had to find our new “normal”. Ryan is fortunate to have full use of his arms and hands so he is fully capable of taking care of himself and certain things around the house. He works full time selling insurance and drives tractor when we are planting and harvesting our fields. If there is something that Ryan can’t do then he usually asks me. For instance Ryan can’t change light bulbs so that’s my job. If it is a job that I can’t do then I usually ask a family member or a friend to help us out. Ryan is pretty stubborn so if there is something he can’t do he usually will figure out a way to do it. When it comes to taking care of our son Silas more of the responsibilities fall on me but Ryan has still managed to figure out how to pick him up from certain areas in the house. We have done a lot of trial and error when it comes to figuring out what Ryan can and can’t do. We’ve learned to plan ahead when it comes to travel and even just day to day activities. When we travel, we have to research for ADA hotel rooms, plan differently for flights, and take time planning before venturing to new towns, shops or restaurants, needing to make sure to find ramps to get in and out of places, and handicapped parking.
It is more of the little things that are harder having a spouse that is paralyzed. Not being able to hold hands when we go for a walk at night, or not being able to slow dance at a wedding. I still sit on his lap and we slow dance that way. But I miss the feeling of having my 6 foot husband standing over me and wrapping his arms around me that way. Not being able to go for a hike or do certain activities outdoors. We still live a pretty active lifestyle, we workout, we hunt and we try to stay active as much as possible. In the scheme of things those little things don’t really matter because I’m so thankful to have Ryan here. We have a very full and happy life together and the adventures are just beginning with our son Silas! We’ve learned to deal with the looks when we go places or when we park in a handicapped spot and people judge us before we even get out of a vehicle. We’ve learned to deal with the fact that many places we have traveled to are not ADA compliant or don’t have a wheelchair accessible bathroom. We’ve learned to deal with the constant handshakes and thanks for serving our country when we go to bigger events, as everyone seems to think Ryan is a wounded veteran. We’ve learned to let things that make us angry roll off our back and we have learned to laugh about life. Ryan jokes so much about being in a wheelchair and the fact he can’t feel his legs. He has a good zest for life so that helps so much. We also fully believe that what happened to Ryan is a part of God’s plan. We’ve learned to trust Him and keep our faith strong. We also cling to the promise that when God calls Ryan home that he will walk again someday and that, my friends, is something to hold onto. God is so good and even through all the hardships we have been through, looking back now it was all a part of God’s plan for us. I laugh now thinking about how I used to plan out my life. I thought I would be married by 23 and be done having kids by the time I was 30. I’m going to be 32 in a month and I just had my first child and you know what, I wouldn’t have it any other way. God’s plan for me, for us, is so much more than I could ever imagine. We have a beautiful family and a beautiful life and we have our faith in the good Lord above. Put your trust in Him and He will get you through anything! Let Him lead your life, give Him the reigns, you won’t regret it!
Born and raised a farm girl in southeast Minnesota, Lauren always dreamt of being like her grandmother and marrying a farmer and being a farm wife. She met Ryan in 2005 and married July 2010. She’s a dental hygienist by trade, full time mama to their sweet five month old son Silas. She’s blessed to be married to her farmer and be working on their dream of farming full time. She’s the author to the blog adventureswithheelsandwheels.com, where she hopes to be able to teach others about what life is like being in a wheelchair and connects and helps others who are paralyzed or are going through IVF. She loves her mornings with God, crossfit, all things outdoors, bow hunting, cooking and Red Wing boots! You can connect with Lauren on Instagram @adventureswithheelsandwheels.
PPS – If you’re ever looking for a devotional on living life while in a waiting season, check out the devotional I co-authored called ‘In the Wait’!
PPPS – Check out the other contributions from this series, including What It’s Like: to experience multiple IVF cycles, raise a child with special needs, use an egg donor, be a DIY-er and home style blogger , be a NICU nurse, Live fully in singleness while still hoping for marriage, suffer with endometriosis. experience depression, start a company, have a micro preemie, lose a parent, be childless not by choice, have a spouse with a chronic illness, fund raise for fertility treatments, have a traumatic birthing experience, take a natural route with infertility, be a vlogger and go through the adoption process. Stay tuned for many other amazing topics to come every Tuesday and Friday here!