Hey guys, this is Mr. Bee again. It’s been a year since I last blogged on Weddingbee, about the severe head injury that board member Macintosh’s husband suffered after being hit by a car.
Macintosh emailed a thank you on the anniversary of the accident and as we chatted over email, I asked her for an update to share with the Weddingbee community. I wanted to post her story here because we talk a lot about weddings here on Weddingbee but at its heart, I think a wedding is really about the wedding vow. And I think that when something like this happens, it really tests the traditional wedding vow: “to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health.”
Here is Macintosh’s letter:
One year ago today, I was riding the train on my way home from work, completely unaware that my life was about to change forever. It was a little after 5, and my husband was riding his bicycle home from his job at a small town library. The sun was already going down, so he turned on the lights on the front and back of his bicycle and strapped on his helmet. Justin had been riding his bike around the Chicago streets for years, but today he was only riding through the suburb of Berwyn. He was almost home, traveling north through a green light when he was hit.
The vehicle was huge – a Suburban – the driver turned left and didn’t see Justin until it was too late. We found out later that the 18-year-old driver was under the influence of marijuana. When Justin didn’t come home as expected, I texted him and didn’t hear back. I waited, went to my Pilates class, and I worried. I walked out of my class and dialed his phone number. A police officer answered. That’s when I knew something was wrong.
Despite wearing a helmet, Justin hit his head during the crash and suffered bleeding in his brain, as well as a compound fracture in his left leg, a broken scapula, and a broken middle finger on his left hand. His brain injury caused dangerous swelling in his brain, so a large piece of his skull had to be removed to relieve the pressure. Justin spent his first 3 weeks in the ICU unresponsive, in a coma. No doctor could tell us if he would survive or what his outcome would be. Justin had a tracheotomy tube and a feeding tube; he was being kept alive by machines. He had many complications during his hospital stay, which was a total of 2 months in the ICU.
After the swelling went down and Justin’s skull was literally put back together with a synthetic implant, it was on to rehab. At first he could only communicate by writing, but then he was weaned off the ventilator and able to speak again. It was only a whisper, but his voice was there. He had to learn how to swallow again. He had lingering post-traumatic amnesia. He could barely sit up with assistance. He wasn’t able to stand up, let alone walk. He had hemiplegia from the brain injury, meaning he could not move his left arm or leg.
He was still very fragile and thin, still requiring a feeding tube and a hospital bed when I brought him home at the end of March. It had been almost 4 months since his accident, and we had only been married for 11 months. It was hard. Harder than anything I’ve ever done and harder than anything I will probably ever do again. I cared for him and washed him, administered medicine, soft foods, and tube feedings.
He went to rehab 5 days a week. His memory got better. His thinking was clearer and he could pay attention longer. He could finally eat solid foods and drink liquids, and his feeding tube was removed. He learned how to put his shirt on, then eventually his pants. He learned how to transfer in and out of his wheelchair without a lift. He was frustrated, sometimes angry, sometimes sad. But more often he was happy. He smiled and laughed and said, “I love you” as often as possible.
Today Justin is still in physical therapy. His memory is nearly back to normal and his intelligence is fully intact. He is getting stronger – he can transfer from his wheelchair with ease and he uses a device to help him stand. His posture is excellent. Last week he was able to stand with the support of a harness and “walk” across the therapy room with the physical therapist moving his left foot.
I am completely over the moon about his progress and his potential to continue to improve.
Thinking about how far Justin has come in the past year is amazing. Right now he is in our living room in his stander doing his daily exercise routine. We do everything normal couples do together—go shopping, go to the movies, and go out to to eat.
When I leave for Pilates class, he texts me to tell me he misses me. Doing all the caregiving tasks each day is exhausting, but each night we go to sleep in our bed with a snuggle and an “I love you.” Seeing his progress is the most rewarding experience I can imagine.
I was so touched when the Bees rallied around us with kind words and even financial support. I couldn’t have gotten through this past year without the support of our family, friends, and the Weddingbee community.
. . . . .
Thanks, Kim. And thanks again to all the Weddingbee members who flooded Kim with letters and contributions immediately after Justin’s accident! You can see all of the heartfelt messages here:
I mentioned this before, but I had a traumatic brain injury in 2002, and am still recovering over a decade later. But I’ve gotten much better, and I’m hopeful that Justin will too!
I checked out Kim and Justin’s old fundraiser and it looks like they’re still accepting donations (since their insurance settlement still hasn’t cleared). Mrs. Bee and I will be making a donation to Justin’s fundraiser to help support his recovery”¦here is the link, if you’re able to contribute:
Thanks Kim for updating us on things, and Happy Holidays from all of us at Weddingbee and Hellobee!
- New York City, New York
- Wedding Date:
- March 5, 2005
- Westside Loft, New York