What was it about Yuriy that first attracted you to him?
We first met in October 2004 through a mutual friend. It really was meant to be. The moment I met Yuriy is when I truly knew what love was. I can remember to this day seeing him for the first time — he had just come home from Afghanistan and was home in Illinois on leave. He walked outside and he was so handsome! We had many things in common and we could talk about anything — our phone bills would be proof of that! Three months later we were engaged. Sometimes when you know, you know.
What is Yuriy’s specific injury?
Yuriy has an anoxic brain injury, which is loss of oxygen to the brain, and he had a stroke while in the intensive care unit. His mom and I flew down the moment we knew what happened. When I saw him hooked up to all these monitors, tubes and in a coma, I broke down and just cried. I felt like a part of my soul had been taken. Yuriy not only woke up from his coma three months later, but he has never stopped trying to improve and try new things when he can — skiing, horseback riding, adaptive bike riding. He inspires me to never give up. He is a Marine — he doesn’t stop trying to improve, no matter what.
How would you describe the job of being a caregiver ?
A full-time job! I never thought I’d have to become my husband’s caregiver at such a young age at the same time raising our young daughter, but I wouldn’t want anyone else taking care of him. We are thankful to his brother as well, because during the week he takes care of Yuriy during the day. It is so easy to get caught up in the brain injury and feeling sad and depressed — but Yuriy survived, he is here with us. Maybe not the way we had imagined, but we have many blessings and we focus on those.
What sort of assistance has the Semper Fi Fund provided to you and Yuriy?
They were and are a guiding light in a dark time. I cannot explain how much of an impact they have had on our life. We would not be in the place we are today without their assistance. They purchased a new wheelchair van for Yuriy when they found out our old one had a gas leak. It was the best gift, and it made our complicated life much easier. They helped adapt our current home with a lift in the backyard so he can access every part of the home. They teamed up with the Chicago Fire Department and helped build a fence, deck and ramp. We have been so very blessed to have Semper Fi Fund as a part of our life. We hope to be able to give back one day. Yuriy is also going to sign up for the adaptive sports program, Team Semper Fi, and we are excited about that. They give so much and ask for nothing in return. They are like the Marine Corps, they never leave anyone behind. It’s family.
What has your experience as a caregiver taught you that the rest of us probably don’t know?
I believe we are all stronger than we think. Take it one day at a time. Enjoy the small moments and truly count your blessings, even if you can’t think of very many. I am in a community of many tough women and men who have entered into the role as caregiver, and they inspire me daily.