Surviving after a spinal cord injury is a daunting task that takes the expertise and help of medical professionals including surgeons, doctors, nurses, physical and occupational therapists. Thriving after a spinal cord injury takes motivation, determination, perseverance and a support team at home.
I sustained a spinal cord injury on June 13, 1998. While riding my bicycle, a 7,000-pound tree fell on top of me leaving me paralyzed from the waist down. Medical professionals came to my rescue, performed the surgery, and gave me the care I needed. After coming home from the five-week stay at Dodd Hall, The Ohio State University rehabilitation center, I continued to be a patient in physical and occupational therapy for two years, three days a week.
My doctor, Sam Colachis, MD, had a discussion in the rehabilitation center early on with me and my husband Mark Leder. He warned us that after one partner has a spinal cord injury, most of the marriages end in divorce. Mark and I had been married three years at that time.
Mark is my hero. He was riding his bicycle with me and saved my life. He led the rescue efforts. He was at my bedside when I awoke from surgery and told me I had a spinal cord injury. He came to visit me every day in the hospital and rehabilitation center reassuring me that life would get better.
With all the changes I had been through and the pain I was experiencing, I was depressed. I could no longer work in the two businesses that I created – a speaking/training business and a publishing company. I had no source of earned income since I had to temporarily stop working. Fortunately, I had disability insurance and received a monthly check that helped with our expenses. Mark was under intense stress, worried about how he would be able to continue to work at his sales job, take care of me, maintain our home, and pay the bills. Depression set in for both of us.
We knew we needed counseling to deal with the grief and changes in our lives. We hired a counselor who agreed to come to our home on a weekly basis to work with us for about a year. Our counselor commented about the obvious love that Mark and I had for each other. That love kept us bonded throughout the recovery process. At no time did I doubt Mark’s unconditional love for me. He demonstrated his love and support on a daily basis. Slowly we made the adjustments that were needed to reframe the injury, focus on a hopeful future, and rebuild our lives.
A major frustration was my lack of independence in our home. I could not go down the basement where my publishing company book inventory was stored. I had to discontinue selling my book and dissolve this business. There were many adjustments made to our home to try to make it work, like removing doors, and moving furniture out of the way but we knew that long term we would have to move.
After looking at homes for sale, meeting with builders, and discussing our options, we chose to hire an architect in September 2004 to design a custom home. In January 2005 a group of fellow professional speakers in our mastermind group gave Mark and me the idea to make our home a national demonstration home and garden to showcase universal design and green building. They also advised us to partner with sponsors for products and services in order to build our home.
We purchased a 1.5-acre lot in Columbus, Ohio in December 2006. Construction started in September 2009. Mark and I were the general contractors and acquired over 200 sponsors and hundreds of volunteers to help us build our home, the Universal Design Living Laboratory www.udll.com
Mark supervised all of the construction and did a lot of the work himself. We moved into our home in May 2012.
As a part of my speaking, training, writing and consulting business, Rossetti Enterprises Inc., www.RosemarieSpeaks.com we offer group tours and deliver instruction in the classroom in our home. I also speak nationally as well as wrote the Universal Design Toolkit: Time-saving ideas, resources, solutions, and guidance for making homes accessible.
Mark and I are business partners and work in separate offices in our home. He created, designed, and maintains all of my websites and social media sites. He purchases and supports my computers, software, and phones. He sends marketing emails; takes photos for my writing and speaking needs; and designed the cover, page layout, and photography for the Universal Design Toolkit.
Mark also works part-time in his business. He consults with clients on information technology.
We enjoy most of our meals together at home and sometimes discuss a business topic at the dinner table. Throughout the day I share emails with Mark letting him know my good news. Sometimes we meet to discuss a special proposal that I am writing. Mark edits all of my writing. I call him into my office when I can’t figure out how to do something on my computer. He can find an answer or make a modification to my computer usually within a few minutes.
Fortunately, Mark is a genius! He taught himself the skills needed to support my business as well as to maintain our home and landscape on a daily basis. On any given day he is in his office completing an assignment or fixing some technology that no longer works.
We hire people for special services including a lawyer, accountant, copywriter, and graphic designer.
I enjoy cooking. Mark makes a great salad. Together we are a great team in the kitchen.
We each identify what needs to be done to keep our home clean and organized. He enjoys vacuuming our home with the central vacuum, gardening, and keeping our home clean in preparation for tours. Mark fixes things that break. He upgrades technology regularly.
I do the laundry, mow the lawn using a riding mower with hand controls, and keep the kitchen clean. We do grocery shopping together as well as separately.
For fun we ride three-wheeled recumbent bicycles in our neighborhood each day, weather and schedules permitting. We go to the YMCA several days a week. I swim, ride a stationary bike, and lift weights.
On weekends weather permitting, we take the bicycles and kayak with us throughout Ohio for an adventure. As a treat we have our eyes focused on a great place for ice cream or donuts. When we take a day off it is to Play All Day! Since we both are self-employed we have flexibility in taking any time away from work.
We believe that dinner should be out of the home at least one day a week. On occasion, we also invite our friends to join us. Columbus is a great place for entertainment, art, music, and festivals. We put dates on our calendar for weekend events.
When I am hired to speak out of town at a choice location, Mark accompanies me on many occasions. We extend this business trip into a vacation. If we know people who live near the location, we arrange to meet them.
We look forward to the end of each day and snuggle together in bed. Each night I get a massage from Mark to help me relax and reduce the frequency of leg spasms so Mark and I can sleep through the night. We watch TV and oftentimes laugh ourselves to sleep.
When I was dating, someone told me that the most important decision you will make in your life is the choice you make for your spouse. I’m glad that I took that advice and found a great man to marry. Life is like a roller coaster with its ups and downs. Mark and I have been through many challenges in our lives and to our relationship. Our caring commitment to each other and love for each other has helped us to thrive as a couple.
- An Inside Personal View of Thriving After a Spinal Cord Injury - December 24, 2019