Rachelle Friedman Hears the Paralysis Is Permanent

Rachelle and Chris made a commitment to each other long before the accident happened.

Rachelle and Chris made a commitment to each other long before the accident happened.

Editor’s Note: When a spinal cord injury occurs, everyone in the family and all the friends are affected. Many decisions have to be made in a short amount of time. Rachelle Friedman was 4-weeks from her wedding. Invitations had been sent, the dress had been bought, the church had been reserved, and then the accident happened. Part 4 of a 5 part series. 

When Rachelle had her accident, Chris was 3 hours away camping and fishing with his dad, since Rachelle was spending the weekend with her girlfriends. Rachelle had not bothered to find out where they were going, so she had no way of letting Chris know about the accident. Chris got a phone call the next morning and drove 3 hours to reach the hospital. When he arrived, Rachelle was in surgery.

In surgery, the bones of Rachelle’s C6 vertebra were removed because they had shattered into her spinal cord. The C5 and C7 vertebrae were fused together with rods and bolts. For the next 2 or 3 days, Rachelle couldn’t talk because of the breathing tube down her throat. “The breathing tube was probably the worst part of being injured, mainly because I like to talk a lot, and I had all these feelings and thoughts going through my mind. My friends made an alphabet chart, and I spelled out words by moving my head to the left or to the right.”

Rachelle had to learn how to do things differently in rehab.

Rachelle had to learn how to do things, like driving, differently in rehab.

Rachelle wasn’t in ICU very long before she went to rehab. Eleven days after the injury, she was sent to The Pitt County Memorial Hospital Physical Therapy/Rehab Center in Greenville, which was right down the street from her house. Rehab was very difficult for Rachelle because, although she was one of the youngest patients there, she was the most severely disabled. “There were a lot of other people at the rehab center not injured as badly as me, and they were recovering much faster than I was,” Rachelle recalls. “Seeing these other people getting better, and me not, was difficult. Everyone could use their hands and arms, and I couldn’t use any of my body. However, I have some good memories from therapy. My therapist and I became really good friends. I tried to be the jokester and play a few pranks to keep everyone laughing.”

Luckily, because Chris was a teacher, he was out for the summer and was able to stay with her in the hospital, rotating with Rachelle’s mom. While in rehab, Rachelle and Chris realized they had to postpone the wedding. “Even thought we knew the wedding had to be postponed, we knew we were going to get married,” Rachelle says today. Many people have asked Rachelle, “How did you think your and Chris’s relationship would be affected by your injury?” and she always answers, “I never, ever thought that anything would change between Chris and me because of my injury. Not once did it ever cross my mind that this accident would hurt our relationship. I knew that Chris and I were going to be together, and I knew that we were going to make it through this.”

Chris helped Rachelle do her exercises and they laughed every chance they could. Their future was uncertain, but they had made the commitment to face it together. “We just goofed around and talked about all the things we had talked about before I was injured,” Rachelle explains. “We never took anything too seriously. The thought never crossed my mind that Chris would leave me because of my injury. I have heard from other people who thought their loved ones would leave them if they were ever in an accident. That really makes me sad. When Chris and I decided to get married, we decided to be together forever. Ending a relationship that was so perfect didn’t seem logical to us. We had made our commitments to each other long before the wedding date was set.”

To learn more about Rachelle Friedman Chapman, go to www.rachellefriedman.com and www.facebook.com/rachelleandchris.

Next: Rachelle and Chris’ Dream Wedding and Future Plans


About the Author: For the last 12 years, John E. Phillips of Vestavia, Alabama, has been a professional blogger for major companies, corporations and tourism associations throughout the nation. During his 24 years as Outdoor Editor for “The Birmingham Post-Herald” newspaper, he published more than 7,000 newspaper columns and sold more than 100,000 of his photos to newspapers, magazines and internet sites. He also hosted a radio show that was syndicated at 27 radio stations; created, wrote and sold a syndicated newspaper column that ran in 38 newspapers for more than a decade; and wrote and sold more than 30 books. Learn more at http://www.nighthawkpublications.com

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One Response to Rachelle Friedman Hears the Paralysis Is Permanent

  1. An outstanding share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a
    friend who has been conducting a little research on this.
    And he actually ordered me dinner due to
    the fact that I stumbled upon it for him…
    lol. So let me reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!!
    But yeah, thanks for spending the time to discuss this issue here on your blog.

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