A Florida couple who wed in 2013 finally got the chance to share their first dance after the groom, who was paralyzed from the neck down in a 2009 car accident, stood up for the first time during a physical therapy session this month.
Lauren and Joel Jackson, both 26, shared the beautiful moment in rehabilitation hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, gazing into each other’s eyes while dancing to “I’ll be'” by Edwin McCain.
The couple met during a church event in South Carolina when they were 14, according to their blog. Although there was an immediate spark and they became close, they gradually drifted apart and occasionally lost touch.
After high school, Lauren studied interior design and married someone else, though the union was rocky. Joel, meanwhile, went to culinary school but struggled with what to do with his life, and fell into drugs. However, a visit after the car accident reignited something between them.
Lauren wrote, “It was love at first sight, if ever a thing existed.” She added, “Our relationship was pure and everything precious. He was my first love.”
In December 2009, Joel and five other friends got into a car with a drunk driver, who hit a telephone pole. A 15-year-old girl died, while Joel, 20 then, was thrown from the car.
The impact of the land separated Joel’s spine from his head, broke his jaw and robbed him of his ability to speak, NBC News reported. He was placed in a coma while doctors worked to fuse his spine together, although they believed he would never walk again.
“As I understand it, the doctors just said, ‘this is as good as his life is ever going to be. Make him comfortable,’” Lauren told the news site.
But Lauren continued to visit and they communicated with equipment that relied on Joel’s eyes to operate a computer. They reunited as friends in 2009, leading to their marriage in September 2013. Joel mouthed “I do,” during their vows and Lauren sat on his lap for their first dance to the song “I’ll Be” by Edwin McCain.
“But I told him, ‘When you can talk, I want to renew our vows. And when you can walk, I want you to dance with me,” Lauren told Joel, according to NBC News.
Finally, on October 1st, with Joel suspended from a zero gravity harness, he was able to stand for the first time in six years and share the first dance his wife asked for.
Joel told NBC News with the help of a computer that the dance was “euphoric.”
“The little things mean so much to us,” Lauren told the news station.
Describing the emotional moment, Lauren said, “‘If I were a crier, this is where I would have been a hot mess.”
“I was just in awe. It was one of those moments that took my breath away. I couldn’t stop saying, ‘goodness, you are so tall’. I forgot how tall he was after all these years,” she explained.
Bob McIver, manager of Brooks Rehabilitation’s Neuro Recovery Center, told NBC News that therapists aren’t sure of the potential Joel has, as he has never had proper physical therapy before. The center is continuing to work with Joel to help him regain strength and body movement.
The couple sells paintings and other artwork that Joel creates on their blog, and they hope to raise money for a home that Joel can comfortably live in. They currently live with his father as neither one has been able to return to work.