William Bell: I was stationed in San Diego California from thousand eleven to two thousand fifteen.
Leianna Bell: When we got married I just knew I was going to get back into acting.
William Bell: Got stationed in New Orleans.
Leianna Bell: With William, he was going to pick up rank, do his thing. We were just going to have it made.
William Bell: I had a welcome to New Orleans briefing. Which I’m from New Orleans so it was a pretty much you know, hey, kind of get a tour around your city for free. And I was like okay cool. Once I got stationed in New Orleans I went to work for about eight days. Thursday and Friday I had a briefing. I was the only person of sixteen people that showed up. So they told me take today and tomorrow off. We’ll contact your command and let them know that you know your present and accounted for. Relax, hang at home, you know, hang with your family. So I was like okay, cool. Sound like a get two free days off.
Leianna Bell: Something minor happened to Williams motorcycle during the transportation from San Diego to New Orleans. So he wanted to bring it to a shop to get fixed because it was a beautiful day, I want to ride it. So I’m like all right fine I have to get to set so I’ll just see you later.
William Bell: So we got there about elevenish. Sat there until five o’clock waiting for my bike to be finished. Finally got my bike out of the shop. I had a meeting to speak with young gentleman at my church about how to actually grow up without being negative, you know, selling drugs, etcetera. On the way to the church I stopped by my mom to say hello to my mom. Gave me a hug, kissed her, I was like okay mom, I got to go. She was like wait you leaving already? I was like yea I got to go speak to the kids at the church. I’ll see you tomorrow. She’s like okay, be safe. I left the church. My cousin showed up, a friend of mine showed up on their motorcycles. So we leave the church and we get to the back daiquiri shop and spent about three hours there hanging out with a bunch of different cyclist and you know just talking, hanging out. I leave the daiquiri shop, I went down about maybe three miles and right across the street from Brother Martin High School, a Ford Explorer was making a u-turn. My cousin said he saw the front of the car lift up as if he pressed on the gas trying to beat us across and ran a stop sign and hit me. My body flew about two hundred fifty feet high. Missed the iron fence. I missed the only tombstone that was in that graveyard. It took the police an hour and a half to find me.
Leianna bell: I got home about maybe ten something and nobody was home. So I’m like okay, something, like where is? And then my phone rings and it was his grandmother. She’s just like Lee, you got to get to the hospital now. Williams been in an accident. I get to the hospital and as soon as I step out the car the dad and the friend were trying to tell me stuff and I’m like can I get one clear story? Like, what is it? They’re like it’s bad, it’s bad. He got hit by a car.
William Bell: I remember being in a hospital.
Leianna Bell: But where’s the person who hit him?
William Bell: What exactly happened?
Leianna Bell: He got transported to the hospital before William did. I’m just like huh?
William Bell: I don’t remember being in Brooke Army Medical Center.
Leianna Bell: Nurses are coming in and they’re like we need to give him blood.
William Bell: They had to send me to the Polytrauma.
Leianna Bell: We have to put a bolt in his head. I’m like what?
William Bell: I’m missing eight and a half inches of bone in the femur. I’m missing my kneecap.
Leianna Bell: It’s so badly damaged we don’t know if we can fix it.
William Bell: I’m missing six and a half inches of bone in my left forearm.
Leianna Bell: They get him stable. The nurse, she’s like I just want to let you know you can go and see him now. Do you want anybody come in there with him?
William Bell: My left wrist was shattered. My right wrist was broken.
Leianna Bell: I asked his mom to come in with me and she’s like I want to see my son. I want to see my baby.
William Bell: I had a shattered bone in my face here, which messed my eyesight up.
Leianna Bell: Maybe two seconds in the room she freaked out and she actually ran out of the room.
William Bell: I was in a medical induced coma for about three to three and a half weeks.
Leianna Bell: Seeing him was just like, I was speechless. One day a doctor said the body functions are there but the brain won’t tell it what to do. Those are his final words. Just to let you know Mrs. Bell, your husband won’t be the same. And, I’m sorry. That was just hard to hear.
William Bell: Seven and a half months that I don’t remember anything. I have no idea what was going on.
Leianna Bell: It’s so hard to hear that you know your husband won’t be the same. You know, you see him one day and then you don’t know when he’s going to wake up. And what is this “not the same” going to be? Like, I don’t know what that means. Why? Why now? Why us? I don’t even know if I can handle all this. We were trying to start a family. And build, get our house. And now we have to put everything on hold and focus solely on his health.
William Bell: First thing I remember was being in a VA hospital.
Leianna Bell: William was about one eighty-five prior to the accident. He had dropped down to about one thirty. He was very, very, very small. Between May and June is when he went over to the VA Polytrauma unit. All of the facilities are nice but that one I think is just very special to us.
William Bell: What don’t they do at the BAMC? BAMC is pretty amazing.
Leianna Bell: One of my biggest things that I had learn, I had to realize it’s not about me. It’s about my husband now. And he needs me more than ever.
William Bell: She makes sure that I’m doing what I need to do from physical therapy.
Leianna Bell: He learned how to use like a claw. It was to help him get his shoes on because he still couldn’t bend that knee.
William Bell: The occupational therapy.
Leianna Bell: One of the main things as far as occupational therapy was just; let’s just build that strength up. So you know, trying to get that wheelchair going.
William Bell: Recreational therapy.
Leianna Bell: Little bands, like stretchy bands to kind of work with his arm muscles.
William Bell: Speech therapy.
Leianna Bell: He was still trying to form words and speak clearly.
William Bell: My long-term memory is about ninety percent.
Leianna Bell: When it comes to being a caregiver, it was almost like being a watchdog. You want to make sure what the doctors said not to do; they’re not doing it.
William Bell: My short-term memory is pretty messed up.
Leianna Bell: It was so good to have a chaplain on sight at the VA hospital. He would come in and they would have prayer.
William Bell: Many pastors that came to visit me.
Leianna Bell: With the help of doctors, and with prayer, and being supportive and just kind of staying positive, yes you’ll have a few bumps along the road but at the end of the day my top priority is to make sure that he’s getting the care that he needs.
William Bell: Leianna is very important. She is above and beyond.
Leianna Bell: And that together we’ll just make it work. When I took that vow you know, for better or for worse. For richer for poorer, in sickness and in health. I can’t just give up because of a brain injury.
William Bell: I could have gave up and I could have just dropped my pack.
Leianna Bell: I can’t just walk away because he’s not understanding.
William Bell: She could of just you know, let my life pass away and been a single twenty-six year old.
Leianna Bell: You have to have faith like I know I’m going through but like I believe this is going to happen. Yes, the devil tried to throw, oh he won’t remember you, you mine as well just try go find you another man. No, no, no, I stick to my vows, stick to my faith.
William Bell: Don’t give up.
Leianna Bell: Our hope is just having more husband and wife time as opposed to more caregiver and patient time. Now I see you don’t know your strength until your put in a situation. I mean hey I completed a college degree and I have a severe traumatic brain injury. So, you can do anything.
William Bell: Don’t give up. Keep trying. Keep pushing.
Leianna Bell: Ten years from now we can just say you know you were in that bad wreck, look at you now.