Four months before the wedding day, David’s carer left us. So whilst we searched for the perfect replacement, I became David’s full time carer….which believe me, is pretty intense and sometimes exhausting.
Life with David is never dull but I was trying to manage my own work, wedding plans, gym visits, boat rigging, learning to walk in ridiculously high heeled Jimmy Choo shoes and being David’s full time carer. So with about 8 weeks to go, I was feeling enormously stressed out and wondering how I would hold it all together for the actual day! We had our hen and stag do’s; although I somehow managed to end up (unintentionally…to be fair, we were there first) in the same pub as the stags on their night out, and David had a wonderful time necking Sambucca shots with my hens!
I was juggling a lot of tasks and desperately trying to find enough hours in the days to work on all the finishing touches. I’ve run my own wedding stationery design company for over 10 years, so the table décor and table plan were very important features for me. I carried on the theme from our invitations and spent hours making place tags, favours and decorating table names and a huge mirrored table plan. I don’t think David ever really understood how important all the pretty little details were to me! Getting married was a VERY BIG THING for me; I worked long into the nights sticking on billions of crystals and tying ribbons, I wanted it to wow our guests. There were dress fittings, meeting with the florist, music to choose, vows to write; the ‘to do’ list seemed to grow faster than it shrank.
Six weeks to go….I was so, so excited about the day approaching, but the nerves were starting to rattle. Suddenly the impact of marrying David was enormous. Being a full time carer for him was hard work, and I had long ago accepted that I wanted to be part of that and to be able to fulfil his care needs so that we could have as normal a life as possible.
The reality of it; some days it’s very hard. Some days I wake up and I feel that the whole day ahead of me will break me; it will be exhausting, I will fail at simple chores, I will not be able to be upbeat and considerate, I will not have the energy to be smiley and bouncy. Some days I ache, my body is tired and my back feels like it is carrying the weight of the world. Some days I want to pull the duvet back over my head and sleep for a long time.
And then I feel selfish and angry that my inner self can he so weak and thoughtless; that I think of myself and my needs before David’s. He does not have the luxury of choice; he cannot choose a day without pain. He cannot choose to get out of bed, get himself a coffee, or make himself breakfast. He relies on someone else to get him up and dressed, to pour his coffee and butter his toast. And that person would either be me, or someone coming in and out of our home every day; for the rest of our lives together.
We had some hours covered by a local care agency over the summer, to give me a break and also to give David a break from me apparently! Trouble was that they sent a different person virtually every time, so I ended up having to show them everything and it wasn’t much of a break. And then one day something went badly wrong; I’m honestly not sure that if I hadn’t been in the house that day, that I would be married and writing a blog about it. The agency carer didn’t know how to deal with David as he suddenly felt an episode of AD (autonomic dysreflexia) coming on; within seconds he was sweating, screaming in agony, his body wracked by violent uncontrollable spasms as his blood pressure shot up; and I had to fix it – FAST. Thanks to the training at Stoke Mandeville, I knew what to do. It’s a life threatening side effect of his injury – I had to find the cause of the problem and stabilise him before his rising blood pressure caused a stroke or something far, far worse. Some of my friends may find this surprising, but I am incredibly calm and controlled in a crisis. I didn’t panic; I gave him emergency medication to lower his blood pressure (it is never more than an arm’s length away from me wherever we go!) and quickly figured out the cause of the problem. Later that night, the enormity of it hit me and the tears fell; I could easily have lost him that day. I’ve seen him have violent episodes of AD many times before, but that day it reminded me how fiercely I loved him and how marrying him was so important to me. It was about joining our souls together, promising to love each other no matter what, and knowing that even when the bad stuff did happen, we could rely on each other for unconditional love and support.
In between the filming, and the busy life we live, we found time to write our vows together and choose the wording and the music for the ceremony. We practised saying the words to each other; I knew then that I wouldn’t get through the ceremony without crying at least once; it was definitely going to be emotional! We also interviewed for a new carer – it took a while, but we found someone lovely and she already had experience of working with spinal cord injury which was a huge bonus. Then we found out that she already had a holiday booked and wouldn’t be able to get David up and dressed on the morning of the wedding…..great!! I was envisaging dealing with bowel management and dressing him in between having my hair and make-up done several hours before I was due to get married to him….not ideal. Thankfully an old carer of David’s (we cannot thank you enough) came to our rescue and stayed with David the night before the wedding and got him up and ready whilst dodging the ITV camera crew who were filming him at the house before he left for the hotel.
All of a sudden it was the night before the wedding and we were heading off to set things up. Two estate cars full of ‘stuff’ and a LOT of colour coded spreadsheets to ensure the day of our dreams worked to my exacting timings. We had a family meal that evening and despite promises to do nothing of the sort, we both stayed up far too late. David was back at home with the best men; still writing their speeches of course! I was at the hotel with my women of awesomeness (bridesmaids) and lots of our close friends and family. I went to bed that night feeling very, very emotional. I tried not to let the tears fall; my make-up artist would have her work cut out without any more tears to deal with. The day had come; the day I had dreamed of for so many years, and I honestly never thought it would happen to me. This incredible, beautiful man had chosen to spend the rest of his life with me – he wanted to put a ring on my finger and call me his wife for evermore. I woke up early and looked out of my hotel room with a beautiful view of the lake in the sparkling autumn sunshine; today was the day. I couldn’t get myself together that morning; my mind was overflowing with love for the man I would shortly be marrying; and I still couldn’t believe it was actually happening. At the appointed hour of 8am, things started to happen. Suddenly my lovely hotel room was filling up with bridesmaids and friends; bacon sandwiches and the obligatory bucks fizz were being passed around. There was the ever present ITV film crew hovering in the background, our photographer snapping away at anything and everything, Jodi working on hair and make up…..the next chapter of my life was about to begin.