My Husband’s Tragic Accident Tested My Marriage Vows

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Joined: Nov 2022

Photo: The Carlos Gutierrez Collection, – YuriArcurs, MWKphoto | Canva My Husband's Tragic Accident Tested My Marriage Vows

I watch as my husband wrestles the kids. A wide smile reaches across his face, crinkling the corners of his shining hazel-green eyes, and laughter fills our living room. It’s a moment I’ll cement into my memory forever, and one, I hope our children will remember.

He coughs and wheezes, body shaking. “Okay, guys. Dad’s done.”

Whines and protests fill the air as he wraps them in a bear hug and then detangles himself from their petite arms and legs. I know how they feel — they want more.

I thank God every day that Charles is alive, healing, and home. But I also remember when he was the energetic dad carrying the kids on his shoulders, racing around the t-ball field, riding bikes down the riverbed, going to the beach, and exploring the outdoors. So many of those things are no longer possible since his accident.

It’s been three years and I still remember the phone call.

My phone rang late in the evening, jolting me out of the momentary quiet accented by the peaceful waves of my daughter’s sound machine permeating through the monitor on the coffee table. After work, the kids and I played in their little sky-blue pop-up pool in the front yard. Afterward, I made dinner, gave baths, watched twenty minutes of Paw Patrol, and finally tucked them into bed.

Charles exhaled into the phone. “I had an issue on the swing stage today while testing windows. It was 110 degrees,” he said coarsely, then coughed.

I asked what happened and waited as he cleared his throat, taking his time answering. Above the lulling ocean sounds, I could hear my own heartbeat pounding in my ears like a ticking timebomb ready to explode. 

“I had heatstroke on the swing stage thirty floors up,” he began. After some time, he stopped sweating, became disoriented, and nearly blacked out.

“Are you, okay?” I interrupted. 

He wasn’t. After working in one-hundred-and-ten-plus-degree heat atop a swing stage performing quality assurance tests on a casino in Las Vegas, the lives of Charles, our children, and myself, changed forever.

Heat stroke. Rhabdomyolysis. Brain Damage. Two diagnoses I’d heard of and one I hadn’t. They changed my husband overnight. They changed us overnight.

When Charles and I were married thirteen years ago, we said, “I will.” It was a decision we made together to repeat a future promise, rather than the present, “I do.” We promised each other a future together with those two words — I will love you today, tomorrow, and every day after.

I’ll be honest, the last three years have been the toughest years of my life.

Gray hair wreaks havoc over my hairline, wrinkles streak below my eyes, an extra twenty pounds occupy my middle and hips, anxiety and panic attacks are frequent, and I’ve lost my peppy-energetic step.

Of course, I’m a mom to two beautiful, amazing kids under the age of ten, and this is a busy season of life, but I’m also the breadwinner, provider, caretaker, and wife. Sometimes, the shoes I walk in daily squeeze too tightly, and I’m straining to keep upright. I admit, at times, I want to yank those shoes off and chuck them, but I can’t.

Charles’ own frustrations over what he can and can’t do weigh on him.

He was a fighter — literally. He used to practice mixed martial arts and was a member of a CrossFit community. Before this career, he was a firefighter and EMT serving others. He was active, muscular, healthy, and constantly on the go. 

This accident changed him. He’s frustrated, depressed, and impatient. He wants to help our family — be a supportive husband, especially financially. And, he wants to do more. But he can’t.

No longer the go-getter, high-endurance husband, he’s now sedentary, save for working extremely part-time in the freezing meat department at a local grocery store. When he does have the energy to throw the baseball for five or ten minutes with Ty or play Candyland with Page, he lights up, but he can’t do what he once did. He’s limited.

Still, he’s trying, including being a House Husband as he’s come to call himself the other portion of the week — doing laundry and picking up in between naps and rest. And, I’m grateful.

Three years ago, I questioned my vow to my husband.

He had changed physically — he was in constant pain, including paralyzing migraines from his brain injury, he couldn’t be outside due to the heat and sun’s rays, he lost all muscle tone and strength to the point that he couldn’t even hold our daughter who was eighteen months at that time. What’s more, he’d lost the will to try.

He was angry, pessimistic, and unpleasable. Not to mention the months of testosterone injections to prevent further muscle loss that had turned my husband into a raging Hulk, but also a shadow of his former self — curt, withdrawn, depressed, and, at times, suicidal.

I tried everything until I stopped and withdrew too. The only proof of our marriage lay between the pages of my cream, tear-splotched journal.

Seven months after his accident, I glanced across the three couch cushions dividing us and asked the question that had been burning inside, “Do you want to be married?”

It was a question I’d never thought I’d ask, but one I needed to. We were like roommates versus husband and wife, barely acknowledging each other, not touching, not kissing, not loving. I was heartbroken and incredibly lonely. 

I watched fear etch across his face. “Of course I do. Do you?”

Staring at him — the sprinkling of gray between the dark sandy hue, cloudy green eyes, receding hairline, and the now, permanent dark rings under his eyes, my future life flashed before me — the kids and I at the park by ourselves, moving into a new home and Charles disappearing into the darkness.

Sadness pierced my heart. Did I want to break apart our family? I glanced at a picture of the four of us on our living room wall from my daughter’s birth announcement. Happiness exuded from the photo, and my chest cracked with longing. “I never expected to be here with you. I always thought we’d be together, but I’m so unhappy.”

He swallowed, his Adam’s apple bobbing. “I’m unhappy too, but I want to try harder. I don’t want to give up on us.” 

All my defenses and all my strength crumbled and I sobbed. Slowly that gap on the couch between us lessened until no space existed — foreheads, hands, and chest touched, and arms encircled. I felt that strength in his embrace that I was missing for so long. 

“I promise I’ll try harder,” he said against my hair.

“Me too,” I whispered.

Having both come from broken homes, we weren’t ready to give up on what we’d created together. We made a decision that day to uphold our vows and decided to focus on each other.

We designated date nights after the kids went to bed or when my mom could take them for a sleepover. We also returned to church as a family and talked about our issues to others, even surprising our Pastor and his wife who didn’t know we were close to breaking.

Apparently, I was an expert at showing a happy face. I was raised in hospitality after all — my mom owned a successful wedding business — but it was more than that, it was people’s opinions. Would they blame me? Charles?

On date nights at home, we played board games, like Operation, Checkers, or Connect4, for fifteen minutes before bed. We had ice cream and movie nights; we listened to music and had in-home concerts; we read devotionals together; and we watched videos of our lives together, revisiting and celebrating what we had and still have.

Charles also began getting more involved with the kids. Even limited play, such as a fake snowball fight in the house or pushing them on our tiny swing set in our shoe-box backyard for a few minutes, brought beautiful smiles to their faces. 

And, we touched. I made the effort to hug him in the morning and kiss him goodbye every time he left the house like we used to when we were first dating. I felt joy, I felt wanted and I felt loved again. 

Of course, frustrations still creep in, especially now when the warm Southern California fall sun is shining and Charles can’t be present outside, and my momma cup is running over. But we’ve figured out how to balance the best we can. I could’ve lost Charles that day in May. He could be crippled or worse — dead. His doctor said he’s a very lucky young man to be alive.

This accident may have changed us, but I know there is a better horizon for us, for our family, and for Charles’ health. We choose to love and keep moving forward. And like our vows, we will have better tomorrows.

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Erica Mae is the author of romantic comedies and contemporary, swoony romances with strong heroines who achieve their dreams and learn that they deserve to be loved. Her Christmas rom-com novella, Falling for Lemon Snowballs, is available now, and in Summer 2024, her travel romance, The Stars of Scotland will be published by The Wild Rose Press. Erica is also finishing her first memoir titled, I Will, which inspired this article. 

Source: YourTango


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