As a young mother and corporal with the U.S. Army, Kim Eaves is used to a hectic schedule. She values her husband Jason, who keeps the family organized in her absence. Kim is stationed in Ft. Riley, Kan., has survived two tours to Iraq and awaited a third deployment to Afghanistan. She never dreamed an accident on her homeland would shatter her world and test her faith.
On July 15, Kim and Jason left for Washington, D.C., on their 2007 Harley Davidson, to visit the historical city before she flew overseas. Two days into the trip, the rear tire of their motorcycle exploded near Newton, Iowa. The bike hit construction sandbags in the road, flipped and threw the young couple 30 feet into the air. Jason fractured his left shoulder, but Kim’s injuries were severe. The accident shattered her C5-C6 vertebra, resulting in a paralyzing spinal cord injury.
After three weeks at Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines, Kim transferred to Madonna on Aug. 5. “I came on a gurney, in a body brace and a lot of pain,” said Kim. Twelve years of military life has instilled Kim with enormous grit and fortitude. “I look at the accident as just a kink in the road,” said Kim. “I’m focused on being positive and healing.”
Adapting to a new lifestyle is challenging, and Kim acknowledged her intense, emotional reaction to the sudden loss of freedom. “I went from being extremely independent to having my husband shave my legs,” said Kim. “That was tough.” Interactions with Dr. Paul Krabbenhoft, Kipp Ransom and Rick Haith, who have also experienced paralyzing spinal cord injuries, convinced Kim she can lead a fulfilling life. “It’s amazing to have staff who can relate to my situation,” said Kim. She finds their energetic attitudes contagious and uplifting. “It helps my outlook tremendously.”
Kim’s nursing team also supplies daily doses of optimism. “They make me realize I am the same person I was before the accident,” said Kim. “I feel strong, not helpless.”
Kim shed her body brace on Oct. 6 and focused intently on her physical and occupational therapies. Kim used the truck in Independence Square to perfect transfers from her wheelchair. Using adaptive devices in the Therapy Kitchen returned the joy of cooking for her family, including children – Tyler, Parker, Raymond, Tabitha and Tanner. Recreational outings to fish, bowl and play tennis, exposed Kim to a world of social activities.
Jason acted as a loving drill sergeant, offering humor and unwavering support for his wife. He cheered as Kim crossed off all the goals on her list. Jason even attempted to replicate some of Kim’s therapy exercises himself, using Kim’s wheelchair. “It was an eye opener for me – it was extremely challenging,” said Jason, who admires his wife’s resiliency.
On Oct. 18, Kim reunited with her family in Kansas and recently closed on a new handicapped accessible house. She has applied for a military discharge and hopes to fulfill her dream of a college degree. Kim believes God has a reason and a purpose for all things in life. As Jason and Kim toasted their wedding anniversary on Nov. 6, she noted “If we can make it through this, we can make it through anything.”