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'The Paralyzed Bride' Answered Some Pretty Personal Questions From Strangers

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In 2010, Rachelle Friedman was celebrating her bachelorette party at a friend’s house when her best friend innocently pushed her into the pool. Friedman hit the bottom of the pool headfirst and endured a C6 spinal cord injury, causing her to become a quadriplegic. Paralyzed from the chest down, she can move her arm and neck muscles but is unable to stand, walk or move her fingers.

On May 27, 2015, Friedman hosted a compelling AMA (“Ask Me Anything”), a popular series on Reddit where users can ask people questions about any topic. Friedman is promoting her memoir, “The Promise: A Tragic Accident, a Paralyzed Bride, and the Power of Love, Loyalty and Friendship.” The AMA prompted a wide range of discussions including how she cares for her baby, how she’s adapted since the accident and what her relationship with the friend who pushed her is like today.

The Mighty decided to compile some of our favorite questions and responses pertaining to Friedman’s life as a quadriplegic. In the responses below, Friedman candidly addresses topics like why she chose to have a child, her most difficult post-injury adjustment and how she feels when strangers try to help her when she’s out in public.

1. “Do you have any physical therapists, caretakers at home or support services while your husband is at work? How do you manage daily activities like eating lunch?”

My mom lives with us Monday through Friday and helps get me out of bed. But once I’m up and out of bed, I’m pretty independent. I can drive, do the laundry and get around my house just fine. I also organize and take care of all the finances. Many people think a quadriplegic is paralyzed from the neck down, but that’s not always the case. It just means impaired limbs. I can move my arms but not my fingers. It makes things harder, but many things are still doable.

2. “Looking back, would you change any of the events that got you to this point? I can only imagine at the time when you became quadriplegic that it must have been very hard. But it looks like it has changed your life in positive ways as well.”

Well, a lot of good things have happened, but that doesn’t mean that I’m happy being paralyzed. And, to be perfectly honest, my life would be way better if the accident had never happened. I’m so glad that I could give people perspective about their lives and inspire other people [with] disabilities who now know they can have a family if they didn’t already know that before. But my hope is that there will be a cure because I would love to actually be able to run around with my child one day.

3. “What has been the hardest thing do adapt to?”

I’ve had to accept people’s new view of me. Imagine if tomorrow everyone started treating you differently. Your family, strangers, coworkers… everyone. But, on the inside, you feel exactly the same as you did before. It’s hard to adjust to that.

4. “You mentioned that you were into dancing prior to the accident. What new hobbies have you picked up since the accident?”

I love playing wheelchair rugby also known as Murderball. What I want more than anything is to get back into tennis — I played for 20 years. But, in the world of spinal cord injuries, every different sport requires a different type of wheelchair. Tennis club chairs are freaking expensive. I’ve also enjoyed adopted surfing and hand cycling.

The person who posted the original question then responded that Friedman’s response was surprising. They wrote:

I think what surprises me the most about your response is how everything you list is still a physical activity. I would have thought people in your situation would have resorted to forms of escapism that don’t require movement. Your response really changed my perception. Thanks.

5. “My very good friend broke his neck a month ago. It did not sever the cord and he has limited mobility of his arms but nothing below. He has gone through three surgeries and there is still a lot of swelling. He is optimistic that he will make a full recovery, and the doctors haven’t ruled that out, but there is a good chance he won’t. What advice would you give him?”

I’m just grateful I can use my arms and that I don’t have a brain injury. He needs to be prepared for it to go either way. If he has had any improvement whatsoever and it’s only been a month, that is good news. I’d suggest he visit the Care Cure Community. It’s a spinal cord injury message board.

6. “How long did it take you to come to terms with the accident? It looks like you have done so wonderfully.”

You never really accept it. Well, I haven’t anyways. I just decided to focus on the good things, like my awesome relationship.

7. “Okay, how can I put this delicately? Don’t you feel that having a child is a little selfish? I’m sure you’ve convinced yourself that it will be fine or that love is all that matters, but I think the reality is that even on your best days your daughter will be short-changed.”

I’m glad you asked this to give me an opportunity to answer. Would you question the ability of a single parent to raise a child? My husband could do this on his own without me, but I have more to offer than ‘love fixes everything.’ Ask any single parent in America if they had someone to help them change diapers, stay awake with a fussy baby or feed the baby while they did errands or took a shower. But even if I was paralyzed from the neck down, I do have a husband, and he is a capable father. Luckily, that is not the case for us.

8. “Do you find it to be helpful or condescending (or both or neither) when strangers try to help you when you’re out in public? For example, at a store or restaurant?”

OMG, I love this question! It really bothers me when people rush over to help. I know they’re being really, really nice, but if you could imagine one day you’re completely independent and the next day you’re not, and people are constantly asking you to help you with things that you know how to do yourself. It’s me wanting to grasp onto any independence I still have. But when people are asking you if you need help every single day, you start to feel like you look helpless. I just worked so hard to learn the things that I have learned so I can be as independent as possible. But I can’t use that independence if people don’t let me try when I’m in public. If someone really feels like I need help and they ask, they should at least respect it if I say no thank you. If I can get into peoples heads and create my own perfect world, I would want people to not ask me at all if I need help because I would ask someone if I needed help.

*Some questions and responses have been shortened and edited.

Learn more about Friedman’s story in the video below:

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Originally published: May 28, 2015
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