What an inspiring and moving story:
A month before her wedding in 2010, Rachelle Friedman Chapman was celebrating at her bachelorette party when one of her best friends jokingly pushed her into the pool. Her head hit the bottom, breaking her neck and paralyzing her from the chest down. Today, the fourth anniversary of that tragic accident, Friedman Chapman, 28, told ABC News that she is “doing really well” and now that her life has “quieted down,” she and her husband Chris Chapman, want to start a family.
And as friends have surrounded and enriched her life since then, now one has stepped up to be a surrogate mother for the couple. Opening up publicly on AMA Reddit, she writes “Ask me anything,” and says that her life is moving forward.
“I am starting my new journey and have just completed my first round of IVF treatment,” she wrote. “We are ready to start a family! Ask AMA about my life, my book, my journey to parenthood or whatever else you can come up with.” Friedman Chapman, who lives with her middle-school science teacher husband in Knightdale, N.C., postponed her wedding for a year after the accident, but is now happily married — dealing courageously with the challenges of rehabilitation and marital intimacy.
Now, she has also written a book about her ordeal: “The Promise: a Tragic Accident, a Paralyzed Bride and the Power of Love, Loyalty and Friendship.” “Basically, when we got married, we felt the next step was having a child,” Friedman Chapman said. “We had been together so long and it was nice to finally know that could not be taken away from me. … I always wanted family and it was the first thing I asked the EMT after I was hurt at the side of the pool, ‘Can I physically have kids?'” But because she takes powerful medication for her low blood pressure, she can conceive, but not safely carry a child, so the couple began a search for a surrogate. “I had a friend from college I hadn’t seen in four years who stepped forward,” said Friedman Chapman. “We were Facebook friends.”
Fertility doctors have already grown embryos from the couple’s own eggs and sperm to begin implantation. They are currently undergoing genetic testing of the embryos.
Even though the friend has generously donated her womb, the couple must still come up with about $20,000 to cover lawyers fees, medical care for the surrogate as well as insurance. The organization Surrogacy Together will help the couple with some of the costs. Friedman Chapman also has a GoFundMe site for friends and family.
One of the most powerful messages of the book is the unspoken pact the five girls at the party made never to reveal which of them had playfully pushed Friedman Chapman into the shallow end of the pool. That friend still remains anonymous to the world, and Friedman Chapman and her family say they hold no ill-will against her. “The take home message is friendship and love,” her mother, Carol Friedman, told ABC News.
“She is totally fine with the girl who pushed her in the pool,” Friedman, 55, said. “No one knows who it is and we never say her name.” “In the beginning, we worried about the girl,” she said. “But through the years, we have talked about it and she has gotten so much better. We have worried about her a lot.”
Carol Friedman, who lives with her daughter and son-in-law because insurance does not cover caregivers, is as optimistic as her daughter. “She has come a long way and got a lot more independent and is always positive,” she said. “She really is fine – I just help her with a few things.” Writing a book could have been a challenge, because she has use of her arms, but not her hands. But her mother says Rachelle used her “pinky knuckle” on her iPad.
“She hits the keys wicked fast and flies on that thing – she really goes to town on it,” said Carol Friedman. “It saved her life.”
Her daughter, sharing stories with others who have faced paralysis on AMA Reddit, is encouraging: “I just tried to keep a sense of humor. To be honest I pushed my sadness down and away. Sometimes I faked being happy but I really think I kind of tricked myself into getting through that dark first year. I started sports like quad rugby ASAP and that was the best decision ever. I just stayed busy I guess.”
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