Love Looks Like This: My Husband Was Paralyzed on Our 3rd Date

"We had to learn to navigate the world as a new couple and wheelchair user."

bride and groom with wheelchair

Photo by Mandee Johnson Photography

Brides is committed to guiding ALL couples through not only their wedding planning journey, but through relationship milestones and ups and downs. Every love story is beautiful, has its own distinct history, and its own trials—there's no relationship that looks the same. To celebrate that uniqueness, we're asking couples to open up about their love story, for our latest column, "Love Looks Like This." Below, Erin Saenz tells her love story.

Jason and I met doing comedy around Los Angeles in early 2018. He asked me out, but I was dating someone at the time, so I said no. He said if that ever changed, to let him know. Almost a year later, it did, and I sent him that DM. After a year of increasingly cute and funny Instagram DMs, it was finally time to go on a date. We both love hiking, so we went on a hike in Griffith Park that lasted five hours.

On our third date, we had fun at a local concert and then headed to his rooftop to see the Hollywood skyline and probably make out. Once on the roof, we both leaned against a skylight, and it broke as we fell to the floor beneath us. I was the first to come to, and realized Jason was unconscious. I started screaming for help. Some of his neighbors immediately came to our rescue and called the paramedics. Jason was rushed to the hospital and was in ICU for several weeks due to a spinal cord injury he sustained from the fall.

We were only on our third date when this happened, so I had no idea what to expect with the relationship. I didn't know if Jason would want to go through this recovery process with a brand new girlfriend or get through this on his own. I didn't know if I could handle the patience it took to wait for him to figure that out. I only knew I had hope with this man I had never experienced before and was determined to keep showing up if he kept inviting me. And he kept inviting me.

When he eventually moved to a nearby rehab clinic, I would come to visit every Sunday with flowers and some type of baked goods. In the first week of rehab, he started seeming like the man I remembered from before the accident. He was quick and funny again, and my heart began to believe he was coming back to himself. We spent the day laughing, and he pulled himself up and kissed me for the first time since the accident. I knew it was on. I loved this man.

When Jason was finally strong enough to get out of bed and into his wheelchair, we started going on "rehab dates" around the facility, like eating lunch in the cafe and perusing the motivational artwork in the lobby. On Easter, I surprised him with an impromptu Easter Egg hunt and hid eggs in the courtyard. Jason has said that this was the day he knew he was falling in love with me. If I had known that was all it took, I would have done it long before Easter.

When he was finally discharged from rehab, we started dating again for real. We had to learn to navigate the world as a new couple and a new wheelchair user. We learned you need to double plan when you're in a wheelchair. Most restaurants have an entrance for someone in a wheelchair but not all of them. We learned that it was hard to go to the beach or to our friend's houses who lived in old buildings. Not even sex felt easy anymore. Nothing felt easy except us.

bride and groom kiss

Photo by Mandee Johnson Photography

In January 2020, Jason took me back up to the Griffith Park Observatory, where we had our first date. Jason was being quiet, so I was rambling to fill the void. He finally stopped me by asking me to sit down on his lap. He started saying a lot of sweet things, but I had no idea why. Then, he pulled out a little wooden box and asked me to marry him, and I said yes.

There is something so wild about seeing someone go through such a life-altering experience. Watching both of us rise to the occasion and come out stronger together made an easy yes for both of us. Jason was a miracle to me and for me, and I hope no one has to go through what we went through. But, I hope that people get the chance to experience the strength of love like we have.

We all know what happened after January 2020—COVID. With a lot of love and patience, we canceled two wedding dates and cried and waited to have a proper wedding. That dream finally came true as we tied the knot in front of our loved ones in August 2021. The first big trip we took after the accident was to Yosemite, and it meant so much for us to see that we can still be adventurous and outdoorsy with the way our life is now. So, we wanted to have our wedding show that, too.

bride and groom with wheelchair

Photo by Mandee Johnson Photography

We are still human. We still fight. I wish I could say that we are always perfect because we had this one near-death experience, but what I will say is that we love each other deeply, and we work hard on our relationship. As we step into the next phase of our lives as old married people, we hope to continue to stay positive and help in the wheelchair community. We hope to raise our two dogs well and maybe even add a couple of kids into our little family if the world doesn't burn down first.

It might sound cliché, but I do feel each moment with Jason to the fullest. That is one thing I think I got from this. When we lay down together in bed to go to sleep, I feel his arms around me, and I thank God for those arms. I try to memorize the way my head fits on his shoulder and his nose at my ear. Sometimes I even try to breathe in and out at the same time as him, like somehow that makes us even closer together. I know that I am lucky to be alive and to have Jason alive next to me. I will never take those arms around me for granted.

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