Linda always wanted to travel to New Zealand. Making the journey with her soon-to-be husband Chris seemed like the perfect opportunity.
However, their plans to visit Australia’s mountainous neighbour were scrapped just five days before their wedding due to a horrific fall that left Chris a paraplegic.
Just under a week before he was due to marry the love of his life, Chris lost his balance and fell off the front verandah of his home. Injuring his spine and head, he spent the next six months in hospital recovering and coming to terms with his new way of living.
Chris has experienced epilepsy since he was seven years old and was no stranger to periods of ill-health. But nothing could have prepared him for the aftermath of his accident.
“The day he fell, that was the day that our lives changed forever. The fact that we had to cancel our wedding was the least of our worries,” Linda said.
“I quit my job immediately to look after Chris. We had to learn to navigate a whole new world together.”
After six months of rehabilitation in hospital, they moved back home and began to re-plan their dream wedding.
Just over a year after the accident, Chris and Linda finally tied the knot.
“The day of the wedding was very cold, but it didn’t matter, I was finally marrying Chris. It was a day worth waiting for. I wouldn’t have changed anything for the world.
“We were wed in my aunt’s backyard surrounded by 40 of our closest friends and family, who had stuck by us through that year of hell. It was perfect.”
Family came from all over New South Wales to see the couple on their joyful day. Linda and Chris were joined at the altar by Linda’s best friend as her maid of honour, and her brother as Chris’s best man.
The wedding was a beautiful affair, although a little different to what they had originally planned.
They did not reflect on how much their lives had changed since the accident, rather, the many things they had to look forward to.
“Marrying Chris was the best thing that I have ever done. There was not one moment that we thought that this might not work, that we might never get married. If anything, the accident brought us closer together,” Linda said.
It was two years since the accident when Linda and Chris finally took their honeymoon. They packed their bags and boarded a cruise to New Zealand.
It was a holiday full of celebration and relief.
“After finally getting on the boat there was this incredible sense of satisfaction. Hallelujah! We made it,” she said.
No longer newlyweds, Chris and Linda have been married for almost a year now. They continue to face challenges every day but, finding strength in each other, they overcome them.
Prior to the accident Chris was a very active member of his community.
He has struggled to come to terms with the limitations his condition has placed on him.
A rock ‘n’ roll dancer and avid poker player, the past two years have been about finding new ways to reclaim his passions. Although he will never be able to boogie like he used to, he never lost his sense of rhythm and groove.
“Dancing is obviously off the cards but we still love to listen to the music,” Linda said.
“We bop our heads around to the music. It doesn’t matter that he can’t get up on his feet, Chris makes everything fun.”
Getting Chris back to his weekly poker game was a bit more difficult. Looking for a bit of extra support, Linda got in touch with Just Better Care and immediately felt comfortable.
“The owner, Lana, made me feel so at ease that I decided then and there to go with their company,” she said.
“They are the most beautiful, trusting people. They are like part of the family.
“Just Better Care help with so many aspects of Chris’s life, but the best thing that they have ever done is to help him get back into the community,” she said.
Chris is now able to attend his weekly poker sessions alongside one of his Support Professionals. He also does the grocery shopping, often bumping into familiar faces on his trips out.
“His passion and charm are still there. He is still the same friendly, lovely man as before. We’ve just had some changes,” Linda said.
Linda and Chris live in their house in Ingleburn with Linda’s son Scott, seven cats and a pug called Dakota.
Surrounded by family and furry friends, their home is always filled with love and life.
Every day brings a new challenge and a new lesson. Chris is determined to keep testing his limits and find creative ways to remain independent and in control.
“We’ve had a lot of speed bumps along the way, but we are finally working out how to live this life. New Zealand was just the start of our adventures.
“I can’t wait to continue exploring and growing with Chris.”