Finding true love is like finding a needle in a haystack. When it stares you in the face, one must embrace it and savor every moment.
That's what Asha and Jeff did when it happened to them. These two young 20- somethings, met, fell in love and got married, knowing they had found that special 'one' in each other. The real celebration was their good luck in finding true soul mates in one another. Their new life together was their "honeymoon." They had every right and hope to think their honeymoon would last forever. But just after their 7 year anniversary, while Jeff was on his way to work as a Special Education teacher in Jersey City, he was struck by a NJ Transit bus.
The honeymoon ended in that moment. So did Jeff's ability to walk. Or breathe on his own. And life as they knew it.
What began was Asha's new life as full time spouse caregiver. It's not even a year since the life changing accident, and the relentless challenges are more daunting even more of an uphill struggle than scaling Mt. Everest. Every day is an uphill struggle. Apart from all of the emotional and physical changes, there is a financial burden that comes alongside severe disability that few are aware of, and very few who face what Asha and Jeff actually are facing, have the tools to fight with or to win. Expenses for someone with a spinal cord injury like Jeff's could run as high as $1,100,000 in the first year and average $175,000 or more for subsequent years.
Round the clock home care, prescriptions, specialized medical equipment, transportation, and even customizing a new home for Jeff, all add to the heavy financial costs of this tragic accident. Some costs will be covered over time by insurance and Medicaid, but Jeff and Asha began incurring immediate, and enormous out of pocket expenses, the minute they entered the Hospital's emergency room.
Lots of people advised Asha and Jeff to reach out to the world on social media and raise money. People made it sound so easy and 'everybody is doing it'. Now Asha is not only a wife and caregiver but also a professional fundraiser. A totally untrained one. She will likely be doing so for the rest of her life. Asha also has to expose her private life through articles like this in order to try and meet the needs of the colossal demands of their new life.
What does all of this have to do with me? Asha and Jeff are friends of my daughter's, who asked me to help because I am the professional fundraiser in our family. But what if someone has no personal connection to a fundraiser? There is a huge gap in our social system in terms of care for people with lifetime injuries and disabilities. Very few are aware of or understand the profound implications it has on families like Jeff and Asha. Lifelong implications. All of us know someone who knows someone living with this lifelong battle and all of us can actually do something to help bridge the shortfall.
There are actually 3,000,000 Americans in wheelchairs today. It's a very powerful number that is testimony to how many of us are affected and how incredibly one's life can change in a split second. This is not the welcome change one goes through from holding a winning lottery ticket. When Jeff's accident happened, as with any tragic injury of this kind, there was a profound outpouring of well wishers and supporters. As a nation, we are fabulous at crises. We collectively raise enormous amounts of money. It's how to cope with the long haul - the after affects - that we need to improve. Now, 11 months after the life change, the beauty of such outpourings disappears while the needs of the family with a person with the severe disability multiply. The impact is lifelong, extensive and exorbitantly costly.
Today, even meeting Jeff's basic needs is daunting. They need a properly equipped van so Jeff can get to all the doctors and therapies he needs. They need other medical equipment, medicines, and they need to makeup for the tremendous loss if income since Jeff can no longer work. The emotional impact on both of them - as individuals and as a couple - is also enormous and the need for both physical and psychology therapy is paramount.
They are facing challenges most of us will never have. They need the support that they got at the moment of the crisis, every single day. For the rest of their lives.
This beautiful, loving couple just wanted to get married, live together, do good work and make a family. They wanted to be a part of a community and give back to it, as well as the world that they thought would be their playground. If all of us get involved, those dreams can still live.
Join me in easing their burden. June 12th is the 1 year anniversary of Jeff's accident and the de facto end of the honeymoon for this incredible young couple. Together, we can help transform the trauma of that date into the kind of life they deserve. If a lot of people get involved, small gifts can turn into large life changers. Learn more about Jeff and Asha here.
Then pay it forward. That's what the real beauty of social media is. Before you click on the link above stand up and take a few steps. Easy right? We can't give those steps back to Jeff but we can give him what he needs now. Let's not let them give up hope.
Cathy Lanyard and Danielle Lanyard