By Sofie Johanson
My boyfriend, Richie, is a 32 year-old man living with tetraplegia.
He suffered from an accident that happened almost 10 years ago, when during a fun night out, he fell down some stairs and broke his neck.
It left him paralyzed from the chest down with minimal function in his arms, hands and fingers.
Life is a struggle for him, and no day is painless or easy.
Looking past all the negative things, he is a true fighter, even though he experiences excruciating pain almost everyday. He still keeps his head up high and works hard to still be able to do the things that he loves.
It was almost two years ago in Australia on a job interview as an assistant caregiver, that I first met Richie, with no intention or thought that he would end up becoming my boyfriend.
I was told the man I was going to meet preferred caregivers with good English skills capable of understanding his daily care needs – knowing that left me nervous and anxious, which only helped to worsen my already poor English.
I probably should mention that not long before this first meeting with Richie, I arrived from Sweden on a work visa to Australia and wasn’t very familiar with either the country, or the language.
When I first met Richie, when he was sitting by the kitchen table in his house, busy interviewing another caregiver.
I had no idea, but he had booked me in on a double interview with another caregiver, which made me even more nervous about my English. I also felt even more pressure to make a good first impression.
After Richie said hello, he went back to talking to the other caregiver and I got the impression he was not at all very interested that I was there.
He finally asked me a few basic questions about who I was and didn’t look too impressed with my answers.
Restarting a conversation with the other French caregiver who had much better English than me, I was left thinking I did not have much of a chance to be hired.
To my surprise, I started to work for him the day after.
One day became weeks, and before I knew it, we soon started to develop a strong friendship that turned into feelings.
I later found out that during our first meeting, it was never Richie's intention to be rude to me, but he was also nervous and didn't want to seem overeager to speak to me over the other caregiver.
Now, two years later, he has 24 hour caregiving and I help out sometimes when it's hard to fill the shifts. We are also still going strong and still getting to know each other more everyday.
It has never bothered me that he is in a wheelchair.
When you get to know someone, the disability sort of disappears and you see the whole person instead.
I love him and he makes me happy just the way he is, inspiring me to go after what I want, live my dreams and find confidence in being the person I am.
And in return, Richie always tells me that I make him feel normal by including him in everything I do and not treating him like he is disabled.
Even though our relationship is not always easy with some difficult days, we try to find a balance between it and his disability.
If you love someone, it doesn’t matter what situation they’re in – you see past it and look at the possibilities.
Everything is possible as long as you put you heart in to it.
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