The Reality of Quadriplegia: Care For the Caregiver

By Beth Erlander

2015-11-23-1448285383-296533-BethandMichael2.jpgMichael Mathiew and Beth Erlander, after Michael's Mountain Biking Accident left him quadriplegic

The Plumfund Story: Becoming a Caregiver
On August 27, 2012 my life as I knew it went upside down and all around. It was the night my life partner, Michael Mathieu fell on his mountain bike and broke his neck. He lay there for hours until the rescue crews arrived. I drove to the hospital at 2 am in a state of shock, thinking that he had broken both of his legs and that is why he couldn't get off the trail. I never thought about the possibility of a broken neck and quadriplegia. Now it is a daily part of our lives. And I hate it. EVERYTHING we knew became different and challenging when Michael fell that day. And suddenly I had a new job added to my already busy life: I became a caregiver.

At the time of the accident I was an entrepreneur, two years into my own private practice as a psychotherapist. Naturally, as Michael's situation took more and more of my time, energy and attention, my income took a serious dive. I've had to rely on family and friends for help while also working to maintain the bare bones of my psychotherapy practice. But I love Michael. Not caring for him was never an option.

I recently asked Michael to marry me. Am I am nuts for choosing this quadriplegic lifestyle? I don't know. I know most people think I am nuts as I am choosing this quadriplegic lifestyle. But I love him and so I stay. I have come to realize something critical over the past three years—in order to maintain my sanity and continue to give him the best care, I need to care for myself first. For me that means getting away a few times a year.

When a friend first told me about this amazing trip, "Pilgrimage of Walking Prayer, Magic, Miracles and Mystery on the Camino", I thought there is no way I could afford to do that! Walking the El Camino in France and Spain? I had been dreaming of getting away, but I didn't have funds, nor the time. That's when I found Plumfund and posted my wish.

2015-11-23-1448285489-814071-thelasthikewewentonaweekbeforehisaccident.jpgBeth and Michael on the last hike they took together before his accident

Plumfund in Action: The Gift of Renewal
Within the first few hours, friends and family began to donate and encourage me to go on the trip to France and Spain! I cried when I realized the trip was possible, and that I had my community supporting me. I was not only able to raise the money to cover the trip, but also $1000 for Michael's costs of care when I am away. As of today I have exceeded my goal of $4500 and I am still being blessed with funds coming in. Extra funds are going to Michael's ongoing care and for health costs that are not covered by his insurance, costs like rehab and overnight care.

Each person that has contributed, in every capacity, has helped us keep the dream alive of being able to live well despite our difficult situation. We plan to get married in the next year... and who knows, maybe we'll take a honeymoon, together. If so, I will start a new Plumfund just for that occasion!

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and Plumfund, in conjunction with Giving Tuesday. In the series, we'll feature inspirational stories of giving and receiving from users and friends of Plumfund, the free crowdfunding site. You'll find one post every weekday in November leading up to Giving Tuesday. To learn more about this campaign or start your own, visit Plumfund.com.