Wayne Smith was a 17-year-old natural athlete obsessed with sports when he broke his C5-6 vertebrae in a diving accident in 2000.
And while some transition into life after a spinal cord injury with moderate ease, Wayne did not. “Realizing this part of my life was gone was very rough, and it still leaves a bit of a hole.” The beginning of his new life with a spinal cord injury was not ideal. Having to move back into his mom and step dad’s house, which was not fully accessible, made the transition even more difficult.
“Since my accident happened when I was 17, all of my friends were finishing high school and going off to college or who knows what else, and I ended up alone. So for over ten years I was basically alone except for my family, and that was my biggest fear, being alone forever.” In addition, Wayne suffered a series of health setbacks over the years, involving surgeries and leg amputations
But what Wayne has not lost is his upbeat attitude. Even though he misses sports, “I’m a pretty positive person regardless of the situation. It takes a lot to get me down,” he says. And this has made him determined to never give up.
A resident of Chester, a small town in Virginia, Wayne has taken up new hobbies and keeps himself very busy.With baseball (the sport he had once anticipated playing in college), volleyball, tennis and basketball out of the question, he has taken up shopping, watching sports, seeing movies, going to museums and concerts, playing sports video games, and, of course, everyone’s favorite – going online. And it was his online pursuits that brought him his greatest happiness in life – meeting his fiancee, Paulina.
Wayne met Paulina on social media three years ago. A native of Mexico, Paulina completely changed his world. The way he thought about the possibilities of life even shifted. “I thought I would be alone the rest of my life because why would someone want to be with someone with all my issues, when they can be with someone ‘normal?’” The two started talking on instant messenger, then moved to the phone. Next was video chat and after a year of talking, they met in person.
Now Wayne can add traveling to his list of hobbies. Since meeting Paulina, he has traveled a lot. “I travel often to visit my fiancee. We tried getting her a Visa for the US, but it was denied. So I fly there every couple of months and stay there for a month and come back, rinse and repeat. She has traveled and worked all around the world so that has kind of rubbed off on me making me want to travel as well. We went on a trip to Canada together, checking out Toronto, Montreal and Niagara Falls. It was amazing.”
Three years later, the lovebirds are engaged. “I feel very lucky even after the accident. First, I survived. And my mom has always been here. She’s been one of the biggest reasons I’ve gotten through my injury with happiness and a sense of humor. And I met my soulmate. That has been the best thing that’s happened to me – before or after. I probably wouldn’t have met her if I hadn’t gotten injured and honestly, I would not trade her to be able to have all the other stuff back.”
Now that is true love. The SPINALpedia team wishes Wayne & Paulina all the best!
Have you met your significant other online? What was it like?