Jeff Fite glided around the hardwood floor in his living room, making his bride-to-be giggle. That laughter is what’s kept the two together for 12 years — and has made them see the lighter side to most anything that has come their way.
“It’s miraculous that you can get use to anything in life, no matter what it might be,” said his high school sweetheart, Holly Harvey.
Harvey, now 27, and Fite, 26, met in 2000, when she was a cheerleader at Williamsburg High School and he played basketball for Batavia High School. Sitting at her kitchen bar, she sifted through old homecoming and dance photos and a scrapbook full of memories and tokens of their relationship.
More than a decade later, they are planning their Sept. 8 outdoor wedding at the Cincinnati Nature Preserve; Harvey said showing off her left hand, gleaming from the shiny diamond ring mounted on her finger.
“The theme is lemons. We say, ‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.’ It’s kind of like our story,” she said, showing the small lemon trees she has handmade for centerpieces.
Another chapter to their story began in 2009. That was when everything changed.
“He had swerved. We hit a snow embankment and we flipped several times,” said Harvey about the car accident that left Fite a quadriplegic. He moved his way across the room in his wheelchair powered by a ball just under his neck that he moved with his chin. His breathing is moderated by a ventilator.
They were on their way back from a bar. Fite was the designated driver, but neither was wearing seat belts. When they were thrown from the car, they landed on I-275 near the New Richmond-US 52 exit.
The next thing Fite said he remembered was waking up on the cold pavement asking his dad, who was leaned over him, if he was going to die.
Harvey was left recovering for two months, with bumps, bruises and several broken bones after being thrown from the car.
“We just had so much going for us. It’s just, you always think it’s not going to happen to you, and it does. It happens to you when you least expect it,” said Harvey, who didn’t remember much from the accident.
For the next two years, she worked two jobs so that she could build their wheelchair-accessible house in a newly opened Union Township subdivision.
Fite was able to come home after rehabilitating in hospitals and nursing homes for those two years.
“It was a long road,” said Fite, whose voice was at a whisper, battling for sound over his ventilator.
But after that long road, they’re ready to say “I do.” They have no way, however, to get Fite to their wedding, or anywhere else for that matter, without renting a van for the day.
“It’s hard to be cooped up in this house. Whenever we want to go somewhere it costs somewhere in the ballpark of $125 just for one day,” said Fite. When he has to go to the doctor they have to rent a van or call for an ambulance to transport him.
It’s rough on both of them, especially when it comes to doing things that most take for granted — like going to the park with their dog or having a dinner with friends.
“We can’t do anything together. We’re always stuck in this house. We can’t go anywhere. It’s hard to have a relationship,” said Harvey, who never veered from her dedication to Fite after the accident made their relationship more challenging to say the least.
So, he entered a nationwide “Mobility Van Contest.” If he gets the most votes online , he’ll win a wheelchair-accessible van, eliminating the need to rent a van or call an ambulance ever again.
Aside from marrying the girl of his dreams, a van would be Fite’s wedding day come true.
“I’ll be able to arrive at my wedding in style,” he said.
His motto is “Fite to the finish” — and his finish line is their wedding day, arriving in a mobility van, ready to see his bride walking down the aisle toward him.
May 13 is the end of the first round for online voting. The wedding-bound couple hopes to get enough to make it to round two.
*For your first vote put promo code 850 in for extra votes.