By RACHELLE FRIEDMAN CHAPMAN
In the summer of 2010, at my bachelorette party, one of my best friends playfully pushed me into a pool.
My head hit the bottom of the pool, and two of my vertebra shattered. The broken vertebra damaged my spinal chord enough to leave me permanently paralyzed from the chest down.
At that moment, my world fell apart, but I stayed as positive as I could be. My fiance at the time (now husband) was away on a camping trip with his family.
When he heard the news, he rushed to the hospital, and never once left my side. In the following year, we appeared on various media outlets and talk shows together.
It’s been a very exhausting but interesting three years.
At this point, more than anything, I really would like to work and have a sustainable income. It’s incredibly hard to find a job that is compatible with my situation. Constant nerve pain, mobility issues, etc.
These are a series of questions posed to and answered by Rachelle on the internet forum Reddit.
Reddit user: Do you still hold a grudge against the friend who pushed you? Are you still friends with him/her? What has s/he said and what does s/he think about your situation?
Rachelle: I love her and have no grudge. I’m not saying it’s right, but I’ve horse-played by a pool and pushed people. I’ve pushed her. What happened was an accident.
She obviously has guilt and it has been a process. She’s a lot better. I know she hates seeing me in the chair but this is a situation we have to work through together. She’s my girl.
Reddit user: Did you feel this way from the beginning? Just after it happened, i mean. Or did you have to work through feelings of anger and resentment? I’m not sure how I would feel about it, yes its an accident, but the push was not.
Rachelle: The push was not but I’ve done the same to her. OK, so I push her five times and we are joking around! She pushes me and on the fifth push I get hurt. So that makes her the careless evil one? I just didn’t see it that way. I was never angry at her.
Reddit user: How long did it take for your friends to realise that you were unable to get yourself out of the water? The other question I have is as a person who has had lifeguard training, was there someone there who knew how to properly get you out of the water?
Rachelle: Good question because coincidentally I was a lifeguard and so were two of the girls. They responded fast but I forgot my training and said get me out of here! We had no backboard. I remember looking all around and moving my head all over the place.
Reddit user: What was your husband’s reaction to the fact that your relationship with him would never be the exact same? And how did it change exactly, other than the fact that he has to help you out a lot more?
Rachelle: Well things did change but I can’t say in a bad way at all. Obviously our sex life is different. There were no “logistics” before and we could be way more spontaneous.
Now we have sex of course, but probably less because I might be in pain or something like that. Money is a factor because we were pretty even on that level before and now we rely on his teacher’s salary.
So it does add stress but we work through it. I’d say we are more passionate and clingy with each other. I think we are just so happy because my injury could have been worse. We are lucky to have each other.
Reddit user: What is your favorite thing to do sexually before the accident and now? Are you able to orgasm still?
Rachelle: Before the accident I had sex quite often. I didn’t enjoy anything over the other I just liked having orgasms! I was a really sexual person so this has been difficult. But I am more sensitive on places like my neck and I really enjoy sex. I don’t climax like I used to but I do get excited. And oddly enough my body feels relaxed after.
Reddit user: How does your husband feel about having sex with a quadriplegic? Was there a period of time after the accident where you abstained from sex? If so how long? When did you decide you were ready for sex again?
Rachelle: We didn’t have it until towards the end of rehab. Mostly because we didn’t have a big enough bed or privacy!
Reddit user: Have you discussed children with each other or with a doctor? I don’t really know much about quadriplegic pregnancies but I can’t imagine it would be easy.
Rachelle: Yes and we want kids badly. The spinal cord controls muscles so everything else is in working order. Once we get financially straight we are going to have one.
My issue is I take medication for low blood pressure that I won’t be able to take. I may just be bed ridden. But that’s just me. Many people with spinal cord injuries have easy pregnancies.
Reddit user: I was really moved by your story and your resilience of spirit. Have you always been a person who was able to handle the hard stuff in life? In what ways has your abrupt physical disability changed who you are as a person?
Rachelle: Thank you so much!! It’s hard to say because I’ve never been faced with something like this but I’m just a logical person, I guess. I had a great support system and I had Chris (love of my life). He deserved to have the girl he planned to marry.
I don’t mean physically but emotionally. I remained my funny, joking, outgoing self for me and all those around me. I think I get a little more reserved around new people because I have no grip to shake their hand. I do appreciate life more!
Reddit user: There was another AMA from a quadriplegic a while back that went in to agonizing detail about the nightmare that was him having no control over his bowels. Is that true of you and most quadriplegics as well?
Rachelle: Yes anyone from the waist down will most often have this problem. Some paralysed people can feel but be paralyzed. So that helps. Usually a suppository is used. I personally have a device to do my own digital stimulation. As long as you go on a consistent schedule you shouldn’t have accidents.
<\Reddit user: How do you feel about stem cell research?
Rachelle: I’m 100% for it. I was before the accident and I am after. I have a friend who traveled to Israel after his accident for stem cells. He was my level of injury and got his hands back.
This is an edited version of a forum that ran on Reddit. You can view that full post here.
You can follow Rachelle on twitter here and Facebook here. If you’d like to donate to Rachelle and her husband you can do it through PayPal to a special needs trust with the email [email protected]. Or you can go to this website.