Katie started dating Richard Travia when they were freshmen at Villanova University. Two years after graduation, Richard became paralyzed from the chest down after a diving accident at the beach. Katie and Richard stayed together after the injury and, today, they are happily married with two young children.
Did the injury impact your relationship?
Katie: The early stages were challenging, scary and overwhelming. Richard’s injury was a big obstacle on our path together, but we didn’t let it stop us from continuing with our goals and future. Today, there are still limitations to what we can do as a couple. For instance, we haven’t traveled to Europe together since his injury because we are fearful of the accessibility challenges; we can’t do some outdoor activities together that we used to enjoy; but we find enjoyment and travel opportunities elsewhere. The injury has brought us challenges, but our relationship is stronger than ever.
Today, how does love play a role in your daily life?
Richard is my best friend and soulmate. We met and started dating when we were young, but we have grown and gone through so much together. I can’t imagine going through a day without talking to him 10 times. We are always eager to see each other every evening after work. Aside from the fact that he can’t stand on his own anymore, you would barely know that the injury had occurred. He is always positive, patient and logical. He keeps me in check.
Each day has its own challenges, but we have built an amazing family together with two beautiful children and an awesome dog. Our love for each other and our love for our family is overwhelming to us. Sometimes, amidst the craziness at home, we will both look at each other and smile and say, “Look how lucky we are.”
How did Richard propose to you?
He was amazingly determined to keep with tradition: for months he practiced getting down on one knee during physical therapy. We got engaged on Christmas in 2007 and got married in October of 2008 at my church in New Jersey. Richard practiced standing in physical therapy, and with the help of two friends and a walker, he stood when I walked down the aisle and when we said our vows.
What advice would you give to someone else trying to hold onto their relationship after injury?
Keeping a positive mindset and remembering that things won’t always go as planned is the best way to remain sane. Surround yourself with positive people and things that make you happy. Find great support groups online or in your community and talk to people going through a similar situation.
How does your family and community provide support?
Being in a wheelchair for 10 years has its challenges, both physical and psychological. Richard has been lucky, because everyone surrounded him when he was injured and they stuck with him. He was able to move on with the life that he wanted to have because of that support. Our immediate family and friends have been amazing to us over the years, whether by modifying their homes to accommodate Richard’s needs or helping to lift Richard into a restaurant, home or location for a social outing.
Another major source of support was the Villanova community. We graduated from Villanova together but we have received support from people we didn’t even graduate with. From getting people together to watch the game at home with Richard to VIP tickets to basketball games, our Villanova family has been so amazingly supportive. Now, Richard gives back to that community through his involvement with the Villanova Alumni Senate and other activities on campus.
Did that support translate into fundraising success?
Within the first two years after Richard’s injury, we did a great deal of fundraising with HelpHOPELive [pictured below], including a 5K Walk/Run, open bar nights and small events at schools in our area. The support was overwhelming. We were able to raise over $200,000, which has helped us tremendously. We are still relying on those funds now a decade later to cover medical expenses.
One of our largest purchases was an accessible van for Richard. We were also able to cover the cost of home exercise equipment, prescriptions, ramps and other purchases that helped to make our living situation more accessible for him. The expenses associated with paralysis never go away and insurance covers very little, so the fundraising we did early on has provided some comfort for us over the years.
What is the thing you love most about your relationship?
Richard and I don’t have the best luck, but through all the obstacles over the years, we have still accomplished all that we wanted to accomplish, and we have done it together, as a team.
Did you find love before or after a life-changing injury or illness? Share your story with us in the comments section below and you could be selected to participate in an interview!