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“Happy anniversary!” exclaimed ten or so nurses as they unexpectedly filed through my door.
Our private hospital room was dimly lit, and I had just started eating my predictable lunch from the cafeteria. Although it wasn’t exactly our one-year anniversary, but our one-month anniversary (monthiversary, as you would say), we appreciated their kind gesture. One of the nurses, Michelle, told us, “Just because you’re in the hospital doesn’t mean you can’t have a nice time on your anniversary.” Or something like that. Michelle was one of my favourite nurses who took care of me at some point during our long hospital stay.
The nurses gave us a “Happy anniversary” banner with Pepe LePew and his sweetheart on it. On this office-printed banner, they also wrote little thoughtful messages wishing us well. They gave us a balloon, a piece of (diabetes-friendly) cake, and a box of chocolates. Maybe this is what happens when you stay too long in the hospital? I thought. We were both touched; I more so than you, of course.
Yesterday marked our actual anniversary. We’ve been married for a year!
To say that the past year has been “trying” is an understatement. But we managed to get through it, stronger than ever, together.
With my eyes bloodshot and barely opened, I remember seeing you by my side as I woke up from the accident. A car accident so terrible that I thankfully recall only brief flashes of it – panicking to go back to our lane, flying out on the helicopter, and being wheeled around the hospital. We were in the middle of nowhere in California, thousands of miles away from home in Canada.
While you fortunately didn’t sustain any serious injuries, we found out that I broke my neck and left arm. It was exactly eight days after our wedding. There are certainly better ways to start marriages, right?
Given how cumbersome that wretched halo brace was, you endured all my complaining, crying, and self-pity. You always lifted my spirits up. You walked with me many times a day around the hospital as it was my only form of physical activity. You slept in that recliner beside my hospital bed and was at my beck and call.
Many times did we imagine the possibility of either one of us dying from the accident. I would have become a young widow, or you a widower. What if both of us died? These were real, frightening things that could have happened if I didn’t come to my senses in time to save us from crashing into that pick-up truck.
Despite the circumstances, we were both alive and together and it was more than we could have ever hoped.
We entertained ourselves day in, day out in the hospital during the thirty days I had to stay there. You even started and finished watching all five seasons of The Walking Dead. I couldn’t sit up long enough in my halo brace, so we had to watch Up on three separate occasions. (You were really annoyed, but what could you do?) During those long nights when I barely got any sleep, you patiently adjusted the inclination of my bed every time I got in and out of it.
Remember when you had to wipe my butt when I had diarrhea because my right arm was too weak after my surgery? If that wasn’t true love, I don’t know what is.
The hardship certainly didn’t end when I was discharged from the hospital. Man, it was just the beginning! You said that washing my hair in the halo brace at home was worse than wiping my butt at the hospital.
I believe you.
Still, we made it through. You had to go back to work in Canada while I had no choice but to stay in California. I spent the next two months in the company of my aunt’s family with but one goal: to get that darn halo brace off and go home to you.
When I did realize that goal, there was yet another roadblock: I had to get a second spinal surgery as my neck wasn’t healing properly. It was like we had a repeat of our hospital adventures in California, except that the Ontario government was paying for my health care.
You were one of the first people I saw after my five-hour surgery. You waited all that time with my family outside the operating room. I was crying from the heartbreaking news my neurosurgeon gave me, that I had to wear my new collar for much longer to ensure that I heal as well as possible. For the nth time, you comforted me and made me feel better. You had to get going though, as you still had to drive eight hours through the night to go back to work in Québec the next day.
As a geologist myself, I understand that you had to work far away for weeks at a time. Knowing that I would get to talk to you on the phone every night gave me more strength to carry on with my boring days at home in my Aspen collar.
Then my neurosurgeon allowed me to leave the province and join you in the apartment in which we were supposed to live together five months earlier. Living in Québec City and learning French with you seemed to have numbed the fact that I had a serious neck injury under that neck collar.
Every day passed by so quickly that before I knew it, it was time to get my collar removed and begin my rehabilitation.
Now five months into my rehabilitation, I feel almost as good as new. I can do nearly all the things I used to and more.
I couldn’t have surpassed all those challenges over the last year without you. I don’t mean to undermine the HUGE role my parents, siblings, extended family, and friends played in my recovery, but it is to YOU whom I owe my greatest gratitude. Je t’aime tellement.
So, here’s to our first year together! May we never, ever have as tumultuous a year as this one.
And if we do, I know that we’re beyond ready.