Love casts out fear: Couple overcome obstacles as they plan for marriage

Published: Sunday, May 4 2014 9:00 p.m. MDT

Sandra Anderson talks with fiance Blaine Whipple, Wednesday, April 16, 2014, in Murray.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Sifting through engagement photos, Blaine Whipple points to his favorite.

A lens peeking through tree branches captured him and his fiancée, hands clasped, as he gazes down at her.

Seven years ago, Sandra Anderson, 26, wouldn't have believed Whipple, 23, would be sitting next to her, his hand resting tenderly on her leg, each anticipating their May 10th wedding.

She didn't believe she could be loved.

On Dec. 23, 2006, Anderson lay in the snow, drifting in and out of consciousness. A sledding accident left her neck broken and her arms and legs paralyzed. Since then, she has regained much of the mobility in her arms, shoulders, head and neck, despite predictions by doctors who said she wouldn't have much movement at all.

"I'm not the same anymore, like physically," she said. "So it's hard for me to think that someone would care for me, and love me in the state that I am now."

Whipple's mother didn't want her son to be the only kindergartner unable to tie his shoes, so she pulled him on her lap and with a string around her thigh tried to teach him to tie a shoe with one hand. She showed him several techniques to no avail.

"I grabbed the shoelace, and I just did something completely different than anything she had tried to come up with, and it worked," Whipple said.

Born at 10 lbs. 11 oz., all the nerves in Whipple's right shoulder were torn leaving no neurological connection or movement in his arm.

After grafting nerve tissue from his leg to his shoulder and years of physical therapy, Whipple can use his arm, though it remains underdeveloped and has limited dexterity.

"I think just the way my mind works, I always just knew I could do whatever I wanted to do," he said.

Finding each other

Even now, Anderson sometimes asks herself if her love story is real. She said she was apprehensive about getting into a relationship. She was nervous about getting hurt.

"He's good at calming me down" she said. "I need to throw those fears out the window and know that in the end there is going to be a great reward."

The fear Whipple has is different.

"I've never had a fear that I would find someone, but I've always had a fear that I might not be able to be everything that they need," he said.

He may be able to clip his own nails, and play volleyball or the French horn, but cuff links are another story.

"I'm not the big macho man that they're looking for, but that's OK. I don't really have that fear anymore."

Whipple said he and Anderson couldn't be more different. "Just name one thing, and we're on opposite ends of the spectrum."

Despite their differences, Whipple said everything felt different with Anderson just weeks after they began dating. After one month, he knew they would be married.

"It's just really relaxing, really helpful talking to Sandra," he said. "I just feel like we became close a lot quicker than most friends that I made in the past."

Anderson agrees.

"He's one of the very few that has been able to kind of break down those walls in such a short period of time," she said.

Overcoming limitations

Whipple acknowledged that their life as a couple will be limited in some ways.

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