Brooke & Elena gives us a peek into their world
Brooke Pagé and Elena Pauly of Vancouver, BC, started the Wives and Girlfriends of Spinal Cord Injury (WAGS of SCI) group after becoming caregivers for their partners, both of whom are quadriplegic. In 2014, Evan, Brooke’s boyfriend at the time, got injured at work when a load of unsecured flooring fell on his head, breaking his neck. After the injury, the couple married in 2016 and Brooke is now his full-time caregiver. Elena’s boyfriend, Dan, became severely injured in 2016 after jumping into a shallow pool while both were on vacation in Cuba.
WAGS of SCI began as a meetup and support group exclusively for wives and girlfriends of men who have sustained a spinal cord injury. Although their lives of both women have changed dramatically since their partner’s life-altering injuries, they remain resolutely by their side, showering them with love and support, while through their support group, encouraging other women caring for their partners with spinal cord injuries to do the same.
During the insightful hour-long video Conversation, their frustration with the government funding process connected to home health care and the need for more free mental health support were passionately discussed. It quickly became evident that their support group provides significant help to many other women in similar situations
and through their on-going interaction, they are able to share coping mechanisms.
One of the more frequently asked questions is whether sex with their partner is still possible and the answer is “yes.” It may take a different form for different people, but it can be done, they shared. Sometimes it looks a little different from traditional sex… “but there are so many options.”
Even with government support, the women say caregiver services are far from satisfactory and Brooke had endured “terrible experiences.” Some caregivers would show up late and one missed 82 shifts! Brooke shared. “….she said she was coming to the house but I was doing all the work and she was getting paid for those 82 shifts.” Elena adds, “Not everyone who is in the field should be in the field.” And the reasons for the poor service? Brooke feels that it is because “caregivers are overworked and underpaid” and have too many clients to handle to provide proper care. Elena echoes a similar sentiment stating that caregivers often didn’t show up so she had to fill in for them.
Both Elena and Brooke said they had to learn how to “share their space” with daily caregivers, but Elena admits that the “hour and a half in the morning” when they are in the house assisting her partner, this allows her the chance to do dishes, take the dog out for a walk, and get other things done. Elena says it has “taken them a while to find the right caregivers.”
At one point during the Conversation, Sophia asks the two women about their feelings as it relates to the role they now play as opposed to the one they played before their partners injury. “We love our partners” was the immediate reply. Elena says in the beginning she was beset with thoughts of “Why me?”, but has now adjusted to the new normal. “I kind of forget that Dan’s in a wheelchair” she says. Brooke adds that although some wives and girlfriends may find it difficult to accept the new reality of their partners with spinal cord injuries, she never considered any other option but to be with her partner and care for him. “I love this person,” she says, “I believe this was put in our lives for a reason.”
Click here to view the Conversation