The day our life changed

When I first met Kev at a ski hill in Western Canada, he was a 20 year old ski instructor with a cute accent and blonde ringlets, and neither of us thought our relationship would last past the end of the ski season.  But, four years later I became a permanent resident of Canada based on our common-law relationship.

Two months after that, while running geophysical surveys in the northern Canadian wilderness, he drove a motorbike off a cliff, fracturing his leg, puncturing his lung and breaking his back (T6/T7).

I was working as a body artist at a festival in Nelson, B.C and it was the following evening by the time I reached Vancouver Hospital where he had been airlifted.  The spinal ICU room was dim.  The only light came from the soft glow of seemingly infinite monitoring devices, breathing apparatuses and important looking machines that crowded the bed where Kev lay motionless. And around him, machines pumped, sucked, beeped, and kept him alive.  Dirt, blood and pine needles matted his long hair and his face, partially obscured by an oxygen mask, was scratched and coated in mud.

For the first time I realized he could die.

On some level I hadn’t grasped how serious his accident was and part of me hoped he’d be sitting up in bed reading a magazine, with a leg cast tethered to pulleys and ropes above his head, greeting me with a hearty “It’s so good to see you baby.” And it was not like that at all. He opened hollow bloodshot eyes and whispered hoarsely through cracked and bleeding lips,

“Don’t cry, pretty girl”

And a great heavy pressure settled around my chest and stole my breath.

We were given five days of hope before a doctor told Kev he’d never walk again.

Sheets of tears rolled down his cheeks, hands clenched and unclenched in his lap, and his mouth opened and closed, seemingly unconsciously.  His Adam’s apple leapt spasmodically and his lips formed soundless words.

He was unable to speak and I was glad, because I had no answers to offer.

I stood behind him and wrapped my arms around his heaving shoulders; felt the hiccups and the bubbling terrified hysteria underneath and I tried to squeeze the pain from him.  It was as though a chill icy wind wrapped around us and swept away all the joy in the room.

All the joy in the entire world.

That was almost thirteen years ago.

After a while we stopped speaking of recovery. When became if, and then was lost entirely. We went from thinking of the injury every moment of every day to barely thinking of it at all, and most of the time it is now forgotten in the daily rush of life.

But it took time. I was angry for a long time, angry at life and the perceived injustice of Kev’s injury.  And I struggled to reconcile myself with the changes in our relationship and roles.

It was not easy.

Yet it passed.  As do all things.