I've written the opening sentence of this blog post countless times over the last 3+ years, and never know where to start. September 1, 2017 our lives changed in a second when my partner Manny became paralyzed by a high-level (C4) spinal cord injury in a diving accident at Lake Shasta and I became his caregiver/carepartner. I left work that day, and never went back. I drove through Friday-before-Labor Day rush hour traffic to Redding in a blur, not knowing just how dire the situation was, and not wanting to believe what it might mean that Manny couldn't feel his legs, as his best friend had told me on the phone. I didn't call my parents right away, because telling them seemed like it might make it real and my brain was trying to rationalize through the shock and trauma. When I finally got there, the neurosurgeon explained in a matter-of-fact way just how bad things were. He said Manny might die in surgery, and if he lives he will be paralyzed from the collar bone down. He held one hand out flat in front of him and demonstrated over and over with his other hand the angle at which he thought Manny's head hit the bottom of the lake. Here, sign these forms, we don't have much time. The room was spinning around me as I signed the papers on the clipboard, and I sobbed and sobbed.
After 71 days in hospitals, we moved back home with my parents. It felt like everything we had ever envisioned for the future had vanished, it felt like we had vanished. Over time, we've learned, we've grown, we've laughed and cried, we've found the ability to find hope in times of despair, to find joy at rock bottom, and to find our way back up. We are grateful to the many loved ones who have supported us on this journey from the very beginning. After a couple years, I went back to graduate school in education at SF State and am working on a doctorate in educational leadership. I recently became a certified holistic health coach and certified caregiving consultant. I'm creating this organization, Emerald Wellness Center, to support other family caregivers' holistic health and wellbeing.