Paralyzed Bride Remains Positive In Face Of Financial Hardships - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Paralyzed Bride Remains Positive In Face Of Financial Hardships

Posted: Updated:

By Scott Stump, TODAY contributor

After a dream wedding in 2011 following a freak accident at her bachelorette party that left her paralyzed, Rachelle Friedman Chapman and her husband are trying to remain positive in the face of the hard financial reality of their new life together.

The North Carolina woman fractured the C6 vertebra in her neck on May 23, 2010, when she was playfully pushed into a shallow swimming pool by one of her bridesmaids during her bachelorette party in Virginia Beach, Va. Chapman, 27, has been told by doctors that she will not walk again.

She has maintained a positive outlook since the accident, inspiring others while adapting to her new life with her husband, Chris. On Wednesday, she conducted an "Ask Me Anything'' session on Reddit, clearing up misconceptions about her physical condition and answering intimate questions from Reddit users. The grateful couple had their dream wedding paid for by 1-800 Registry and their honeymoon in Fiji paid for by TODAY, but are now dealing with difficult financial circumstances.

They are living on Chris's teacher's salary and a monthly insurance stipend from Rachelle's former job that pays her 60 percent of her former salary, which she said was under $30,000 a year. She currently pays $625 a month for her insurance, which eats up the majority of the payout from her former job, and does not receive any type of federal assistance. The couple is extremely thankful for the outpouring of generosity since her story became public, but has been working to juggle mounting bills.

"Before I was hurt, we definitely were not rich, but combined we were fine,'' Rachelle told TODAY.com. "Now we always have to think about everything little thing we might do. It can be tough, but we are doing the best we can."

"It's been tough," Chris told TODAY.com. "We've been fortunate enough that something has come along to sustain us, like during Christmas we got family support to help us through, or a donation was made to her website that helped sustain us through that particular month. We've been fortunate enough that something has come along that got us through month by month.''

While Chris fears changing jobs because a future employer's benefits might not cover his wife, Rachelle is unable to secure a job  because of complications from her accident that prevent her from working consistent hours. She also has not done any physical therapy since the charitable group "Walking With Anthony'' worked with her in 2011 because she cannot afford the $3,000 insurance deductible to pay for regular therapy.  

"I have very, very bad nerve pain and low blood pressure in the morning, so I'm not the most reliable nine-to-five worker,'' Rachelle said. "I can't work if I'm passing out. It's not possible to get that full-time job that I want.''

While she has not found steady work, she is early in the process of writing a book about her story that is expected to be released in 2014 by Globe Pequot Press.

"It will be about the path I've taken before and after my injury,'' she said. "A lot is about my life and how it's changed.''

"There are a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings about people with disabilities, and I think her story of perseverance and taking what you've got and working with it resonates with a lot of people,'' Chris said.

Despite the accident, Rachelle is still close with the friend who pushed her into the pool, whom she has not publicly identified.  

"In the beginning it was like, ‘How do you know how to handle that situation?'' she said about her friend. "I didn't really feel like having a deep talk in the beginning, so we acted as normal as we could, but obviously you have to talk about it. I think we're getting past that now, and she is a good friend who I talk to regularly."

She said one big reason why she did the Reddit chat on Monday was to clear up erroneous perceptions about her situation and people with spinal cord injuries in general. She typed her responses to questions about her sex life, mobility, financial situations and more on an iPad by using the knuckle of her pinky, as her hands are balled into fists as a result of the accident.

To keep busy, Rachelle has been playing quad rugby, where Chris now makes some money on the side as a referee, and she also speaks to local schools and churches about her story.

"I feel like I'm a senior in high school again, trying to figure out what I want to do with my life,'' she said. "I wish my job was traveling all over and motivating and speaking to people. It makes me feel like I'm actually doing something with my injury, and it didn't happen in vain.''

The couple have also grown "more clingy'' since her accident.

"He really almost lost me,'' she said. "When he goes off to work, he's seen the reality of when someone drives away and you say goodbye, things can totally change. We always make sure to hug and kiss and say ‘I love you.'''

Her next goal is to have the couple's first child. She hopes to clear up the belief that a parent with a disability cannot take care of a baby. A primary issue right now, in addition to the couple's financial situation, is that she would have to come off some essential medications in order to ensure a safe pregnancy.

"People don't think I can physically take care of (a child), but there is adaptive equipment out there, plus I have my family's support,'' she said.

"A lot of her rugby teammates are guys who are new dads and are able to support their children,'' Chris said. "It can definitely be done with family support and some adaptation. There's learning curves for it just like there are for everyone.''

By: TODAY News

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • NEW INFORMATION: High Drive brush fire believed to be human caused

    NEW INFORMATION: High Drive brush fire believed to be human caused

    Wednesday, July 30 2014 1:58 PM EDT2014-07-30 17:58:17 GMT
    SPOKANE, Wash.- Tuesday evening the Spokane Fire department announced they had a likely cause for the High Drive brush fire: humans. The fire broke out Monday afternoon about 3pm on the west side of Spokane's South Hill between Qualchan Golf Course and High Drive. By 6pm it had grown to 30 acres and moved to within 75 yards of several homes on High Drive.>>
    SPOKANE, Wash.- Tuesday evening the Spokane Fire department announced they had a likely cause for the High Drive brush fire: humans. The fire broke out Monday afternoon about 3pm on the west side of Spokane's South Hill between Qualchan Golf Course and High Drive. By 6pm it had grown to 30 acres and moved to within 75 yards of several homes on High Drive.>>
  • PHOTOS JUST IN: Devastation from Carlton Complex; 300 homes burned

    PHOTOS JUST IN: Devastation from Carlton Complex; 300 homes burned

    Saturday, July 26 2014 12:07 AM EDT2014-07-26 04:07:59 GMT
    TWISP, Wash. (AP) - The Okanogan County Sheriff says the Carlton Complex wildfire has many more homes than previously thought. Sheriff Frank Rogers said Friday that the Carlton Complex fire has consumed about 300 homes this month. His office previously placed the number at 150, but he said then he knew it would rise.>>
    TWISP, Wash. (AP) - The Okanogan County Sheriff says the Carlton Complex wildfire has many more homes than previously thought. Sheriff Frank Rogers said Friday that the Carlton Complex fire has consumed about 300 homes this month. His office previously placed the number at 150, but he said then he knew it would rise.>>
  • WILDFIRE WATCH 2014: DNR tackling new wildfire near Tonasket

    WILDFIRE WATCH 2014: DNR tackling new wildfire near Tonasket

    Wednesday, July 30 2014 3:03 PM EDT2014-07-30 19:03:06 GMT
    TONASKET, Wash.- The Department of Natural Resources says they are battling a new wildfire northeast of Wauconda and Tonasket. The fire broke out on Tuesday, July 29th and is called the "Torado Mountain" wildfire. DNR crews are attacking this fire from the ground and air.
    >>
    TONASKET, Wash.- The Department of Natural Resources says they are battling a new wildfire northeast of Wauconda and Tonasket. The fire broke out on Tuesday, July 29th and is called the "Torado Mountain" wildfire. DNR crews are attacking this fire from the ground and air.
    >>
  • National NewsMore>>

  • Hamas agrees to 24-hour holiday truce in Gaza war

    Hamas agrees to 24-hour holiday truce in Gaza war

    Sunday, July 27 2014 10:36 AM EDT2014-07-27 14:36:04 GMT
    GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) - Hamas says it has agreed to a 24-hour humanitarian truce in the Gaza war ahead of a major Muslim holiday. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the truce would go into effect at 2 p.m. Sunday. The three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday, which caps the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, is expected to begin Monday or Tuesday, depending on the sighting of the new moon.>>
    GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) - Hamas says it has agreed to a 24-hour humanitarian truce in the Gaza war ahead of a major Muslim holiday. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the truce would go into effect at 2 p.m. Sunday. The three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday, which caps the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, is expected to begin Monday or Tuesday, depending on the sighting of the new moon.>>
  • Dutch: 1st victim identified from Flight 17

    Dutch: 1st victim identified from Flight 17

    Saturday, July 26 2014 5:55 PM EDT2014-07-26 21:55:02 GMT
    THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) - The Dutch government says the first victim has been identified from the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 disaster.The name and sex of the victim, a Dutch national, weren't released. The government said Saturday the next of kin and mayor of the victim's hometown have been informed.>>
    THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) - The Dutch government says the first victim has been identified from the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 disaster.The name and sex of the victim, a Dutch national, weren't released. The government said Saturday the next of kin and mayor of the victim's hometown have been informed.>>
  • 3 rockets hit Israel as Hamas rejects Gaza truce

    3 rockets hit Israel as Hamas rejects Gaza truce

    Saturday, July 26 2014 5:19 PM EDT2014-07-26 21:19:11 GMT
    JERUSALEM (AP) - The Israeli military says three rockets have been fired from Gaza at Israel despite a proposed extension of a humanitarian truce in the Gaza war.Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the group rejected Israel's proposal to extend an original 12-hour lull by four hours, until midnight Saturday.>>
    JERUSALEM (AP) - The Israeli military says three rockets have been fired from Gaza at Israel despite a proposed extension of a humanitarian truce in the Gaza war.Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the group rejected Israel's proposal to extend an original 12-hour lull by four hours, until midnight Saturday.>>