(Tierra Harris is a wife and mom from Delaware)
Leon and I met at church 6 years after his injury. He was a victim of an attempted robbery at the age of 17 where he was shot in his attempt to run home and it left him paralyzed. He is a C6-T3, ASIA A complete. We dated for a year before getting engaged and married 9 months later.
The wheelchair was never seen as a hindrance to a life of normalcy but as an opportunity to do things differently. Who we are as individuals at the core remains the same and is worthy of love, joy and a complete life. The world is full of people with phobias and fears that keep them from doing some of the same things and having the same experiences that the wheelchair can keep you from.
We’ve learned and adjusted to doing things a little differently. When deciding on a place to live, the must- haves are just a little different than an abled-bodied couple but the satisfaction of meeting both of our needs is the same. Because we love and care for each other we both want to see the other person just as happy. A ranch style home with hardwood floors and at least two bathrooms wasn’t a hard sell for me.
Hardwood floors are much easier for Leon to roll on. An open kitchen (we don’t have an island) allows him enough room to move around easily and still leave room for everyone else and lastly two bathrooms were a must. His bathroom routine takes time and we still need some availability for everyone else in addition to having a more established space that’s designed for his needs. He needs a roll-in shower but at this age our daughter needs a tub.
I am also Leon’s only caregiver. I handle some of his activities of daily living which will look different for all injury levels but I think the need for help and having to be humble enough to ask may be the same. It isn’t always easy for Leon to ask for help especially if he is concerned about how I am feeling and/or if we are in a good space.
Most families find it easier to use their loved one as a caregiver because it gives consistency, however caregiver burn out is a real thing and some care giver relationships only last a few years. One of the ways to keep the relationship going and separate is to honor the needs and wants of your spouse even in that role. Doing his bowel regiment isn’t the best time to be intimate and sexy but I do consider him as an individual so I am gentle with my touch and kind with my words because I know its a very vulnerable time and those small acts of kindness can go a long way.
Dealing with sickness is easier without kids than with however having and leaning on you support system helps. People want to help but don’t always know how. What people don’t realize is that babysitting, cleaning, and helping with meals goes a long way. Especially when you are overwhelmed with thoughts and worry but you know that life still needs to happen.
When our daughter, Noel, was younger it was much easier to send her with my family who encouraged me to focus on Leon because she would be fine. It was an opportunity for them to love on her and for her to spend time with her cousins. At three she’s very in tune and smart.
The beauty in it is that she gets to see first hand how nurses care for her father. She pulls out her Doc McStuffins kit and gets to work right along with them. Kids learn to adjust especially because as a post injury family they don’t know anything differently.
Life as an interabled family is definitely different, but it’s also fun, full of love and creativity. It becomes what you make it so always look for the joy and never give up hope.
– Visit their official site Harris Hope & Humor
– Follow Tierra and Leon on Instagram here
– Follow them on Facebook here
– Watch their Youtube channel here