Lost and found

Why I'm so glad I lost my leg...and my wife!

Published by: Angela Carless and Jessica Gibb
Published on: 1 December 2011

The bright lights burned my eyes as pain racked my body. Then, through the haze, I saw the hospital room door open. ‘Diane,' I gasped.
Feeling the weight of her hand close around mine, I sighed with relief. All that mattered was that we still had each other. If fate had taken a different turn, we might never have seen each other again.
I'd been riding to work in Santa Monica, USA, when I'd lost control of my motorbike and fallen under the wheels of a large gravel lorry. It had dragged me 30ft before I'd ended up crushed underneath it.
My legs had felt like they were on fire. But I could only think about one thing. ‘Please call my wife,' I'd groaned. I'd thought I was going to die, wanted to say my last goodbyes.
Me and Diane, 42, had only been married four years. I couldn't bear the thought of leaving her all alone. I had to survive this.
Focusing on her face, I'd fought to stay awake. But as sirens pierced the air, the blackness had swallowed me up.
The next thing I'd known, I'd woken in hospital after being in a coma for five weeks. Doctors had called Diane, and she'd rushed to be by my side.
‘I came to see you every day,' she said now.
‘Thank you,' I whispered. ‘I love you.'
‘I love you, too,' she smiled.
Doctors had warned Diane that I only had a five per cent chance of survival as I had a broken leg, shattered pelvis, and lacerated bladder, urethra and colon.
‘We'll get through this together,' I told her. Gripping my hand, she nodded.
But as the days and weeks passed, rather than supporting me, Diane seemed to grow more and more distant. One day, she didn't show up at the hospital at all.
‘Where have you been?' I fretted, when she finally appeared a few days later.
‘Sorry, I've been really busy,' she said.
Still, she was here now. One day, I noticed something. ‘You're not wearing your wedding ring.'
‘Oh, I just took it off when I was cleaning,' she said.
Did she think I was daft? She was gradually slipping away from me, and there was nothing I could do. I wasn't in a position to fight for her while laying in hospital.
After four months, I was strong enough to go home. ‘Things will be better now I'm here,' I told her.
Instead, they got worse. My left leg was so badly damaged, I could hardly move and was in constant pain. But rather than dealing with my injuries, Diane seemed to shut down.
Two years after the accident, me and Diane were rowing constantly. As if things couldn't get any worse, I had to have my leg amputated. It was the final straw.
‘I'm leaving,' Diane spat. ‘No woman is going to love you again, not the way you are!'
‘I'll have women lining up!' I yelled.
As the door slammed behind her, I couldn't stop shaking. She'd said the one thing she knew would hurt me most. And she was right - despite my bravado, I was terrified of being alone. Who'd want a man with one leg?
But as the months passed, I knew I had to learn to live with my disability and get on with life. So, eight months after Diane left, I joined a dating website for disabled people.
What should I write?
If you want to date a man who's really nice and funny, but is missing a leg and has a colostomy bag and a catheter, get in touch! I popped on my profile.
Four hours later, I got a response from an able-bodied member called Sabine, 43, an occupational therapist who worked with disabled people.
Too much information! she wrote. You'll never meet anyone giving all those details!
Grinning, I tapped my answer out. What have I got left to lose? I joked. As we got chatting, she told me she lived in Essex, England, and loved my sense of humour.
We got on so well, we swapped numbers and spent five hours on the phone telling each other everything. Like me, Sabine had been married twice before and had a daughter Amadea, 24, from her first marriage.
I confided every detail of my injuries, and told her about how Diane had left me. ‘How could she do that when you needed her most?' Sabine gasped.
Her reaction, the sound of her voice with that cute English accent, the funny things she said... I realised something that shocked me. Despite everything I'd been through, I was falling in love.
This was crazy. We'd never met and never would - she lived thousands of miles away.
Three weeks after we'd first made contact, Sabine decided she felt the same way, though. ‘I'm going to visit you for a long weekend,' she announced one day.
Yes! Could this be the shot at happiness that I never thought I'd have again?
On the day, I mustered up all my strength to meet her at Los Angeles airport using crutches.
As I waited, I was so nervous, I was shaking. What if my missing leg was too much for her?
But as soon as our eyes met, sparks flew. ‘You look beautiful,' I said as we kissed hello.
‘You look cute, too,' she smiled.
Driving back to my place, I couldn't stop staring at her gorgeous hazel eyes and dark hair. We spent the first night talking into the early hours, and enjoyed a lovely, romantic weekend. But it was over too soon!
As we said goodbye at the airport, I gave her a heart-shaped key ring with my door key.
‘Here's the key to my house - and my heart,' I told her.
And the minute I got home, I booked my trip to visit her in the UK a month later.
‘I can't live without you,' I told her when I arrived. ‘I love you.'
‘I love you, too,' she said.
So I decided to leave the States and come to England to be with Sabine for good.
Two years later, we went back to California for the graduation of my daughter Jaqi, 18 - and I popped the question. ‘Let's get married in Vegas!' I grinned.
A limo took us to the drive-through at the famous Little White Wedding Chapel. We were both in tears as we said our vows.
Diane was wrong... there is a woman who loves me despite my injuries, and she couldn't be more perfect. Now I'm thankful for my accident because if I hadn't lost my leg, I would never have found Sabine.
Ruben Carril, 45, East Tilbury, Essex