now or never

'Maybe I should go it alone': Finding our way after a life-changing accident

One week after his accident my partner communicated the only words I refused to accept. When Nolan told me he should go it alone, my heart imploded.
Kim and Nolan hold the letter board that Nolan used to communicate after his accident. (CBC)
Listen17:37

By Kim Kaschor

One week after his accident my partner blinked out the only words I refused to accept:

"Maybe I should go it alone."

Up to this point I had absorbed a lot of hard stuff, most of which came through the tedious process of pointing out letters on a clipboard when he was unable to communicate in any other way. Letter by letter, I would point and he would blink until the words that were stuck beneath the breathing tube in his throat found their way to my fingertips and onto the page.
The board that Nolan would use to communicate after his accident, blinking at each letter as somebody moved their finger along the alphabet. (CBC)

It took hours to gather the sentences but eventually I would learn that the lakeside getaway with his friends was cut short by a dive in the wrong direction. He was left floating face down in the water, listening and waiting, until the moment he was pulled from the lake and able to fill his lungs with that crisp September air again.

I pieced together the details but there were new ones to add. The impact had crushed Nolan's C4/C5 vertebrae in his neck and it would require surgery. The spinal cord was still intact, but it was damaged and the location of the injury meant he may never move anything below his neck again.

Kim and Nolan at Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg. (CBC)
While my partner lay still, my mind raced to keep up with conversations about ventilators and tracheostomies; when his heart stopped beating for the third time, mine remained steady.

Nolan was so positive and patient through it all, but I knew eventually he would be overwhelmed by the uncertainty. I was ready for the moment he felt like giving up, so long as he wasn't giving up on us.

When Nolan told me he should go it alone, my heart imploded. I couldn't believe that after everything we had been through he would actually choose to do life without me. I was incensed by the suggestion that all of the love and support I had offered was not enough.

That night I was reminded of the power of just a few words, but I should have waited for one more.

"Maybe I should go it alone... tonight," he added.

Nolan wasn't trying to break up with me, he was trying to send me home to an evening on the couch with our two young girls who had seen very little of me since the accident. He was asking me to take a moment for myself.

Being the wordier one in the relationship, I'm normally the one who needs to spell things out. In times of misunderstanding, my ask is for words, while Nolan's is almost always for time.  

As it turns out, the two work best when applied together.

(Kim Kaschor)