Living in Colorado in 2010, Adonia Whittier met Army Captain Mike Luckett, who was stationed in Colorado Springs. The two immediately connected but Luckett was to report to Fort Lee in Virginia in a few weeks.
“We were just friends and I was going to visit him for my birthday on August 13,” Whittier now recalls. But three days before she flew to visit him, Luckett was in a motorcycle accident in Virginia. “I came out and was with him in the ICU,” Whittier continues. “I was only planning on staying for four days but instead I stayed for about three weeks until he was transferred to the VA hospital for his rehab.”
Lives change. A friendship deepens.
During this time, both of their lives changed dramatically. The friendship had deepened into something more. Luckett’s severe spinal cord injury would put the vibrant young man in a wheelchair with a need for round-the-clock care.
I offered to move to Virginia and become not only his girlfriend but his caregiver,” Whittier said. “After much deliberation he gave me permission to move. It’s been over a year now [almost two, actually] since we first met and both of us are happy we decided to take a risk and be together."
Making time for everything is a tremendous challenge. Open communication is the biggest thing.
That’s not a typical story of how one becomes a caregiver but it is the story of Adonia Whittier and Mike Luckett, who continue to grow and evolve in their various roles. Certainly, the situation offers its share of challenges.
“The hardest time is if there is a disagreement between us,” Whittier said with a bit of a chuckle. “You know how you get mad at someone and don’t want to talk to them? So sometimes we have very minimal communication while I’m still performing the job of caregiver."
That said, Whittier maintains that communication is still the key. Sometimes she simply needs time for herself or is overwhelmed, and she lets Luckett know the situation. Whittier is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology through an online program so she has her schoolwork on top of the relationship and caregiver duties.
Making time for everything is a tremendous challenge,” Whittier said. “We now have a housekeeper that comes in once a week or is on call. I try to take personal time: take a hot bath, get my nails done, play a video game. Open communication is the biggest thing. Sometimes I have to say, ‘I’m tired. I need help.’ He understands.”
A born caregiver. A promising future.
Whittier is familiar with veterans. Her father, uncle and grandfather were all in the Army. And she did have a brief role as a caregiver in her father’s last days. “He had cirrhosis and died of liver failure,” Whittier said of her father. “I flew to New Hampshire when I found out he was dying. He wanted to go home to die and me and my uncle took care of him for the four days he was home. It was a life-changing experience. I knew after caring for him I could care for anyone. It definitely contributed to my willingness to become Mike’s caregiver.
We’re looking forward to lots of time together. We have a lot of options ahead of us.
Whittier said she wanted to take care of people from a mental health standpoint, thus the pursuit of a psychology degree, but she never imagined she would find herself in the role she has today.
The future, though, is exciting for the two 26-year-olds who each have August birthdays. They have discussed marriage. They want to eventually build an accessible house. They’ve discussed having children. Whittier wants to finish her degree and then pursue graduate work.
"Never really in my wildest dreams did I imagine this life,” Whittier said. “I like to take care of people but never thought about this."
Luckett and Whittier have plenty of challenges ahead but the future offers much promise. “We’re still getting to know each other,” Whittier added. “We had really just met before Mike’s accident in August of 2010. We’re looking forward to lots of time together. We have a lot of options ahead of us."