Being a caregiver means it is my turn to make sure that my veteran's wounds do not stop him from living the best life he can and the best life we can together as a family.
What is one piece of advice you would offer to other military and veteran caregivers?
Know your resources and do not ever give up. If you and your service member or veteran are unsatisfied with the answers or outcomes, keep pushing.
What does being a military or veteran caregiver mean to you?
My husband fought to defend our freedoms and came home wounded. Now, it is my turn to make sure that his wounds do not stop him from living the best life he can and the best life we can together as a family.
How has your life changed since you became a caregiver? What sacrifices have you had to make?
The most important change of taking on the role of caregiver also means that I have my husband by my side, so I would not change that for anything. There have also been difficult changes and sacrifices I have had to make, including giving up my career in turn for managing and being able to focus on my husband’s health, while also building our family through IVF, which has been a challenge in and of itself.
Crystal and Tyler Wilson’s bond grew out of circumstances unlikely to produce a relationship, let alone marriage and parenting. Despite great odds, they have built a fulfilling and rewarding life together that began as a provider-patient relationship and grew into a love that surpassed physical limitations through grit and belief in the impossible.
After graduating with her master’s degree, Crystal moved to Denver, Colorado, where she was offered a job with the opportunity to start an adaptive sports program for veterans. There she met Tyler, who in 2005 was injured in Afghanistan, paralyzing him from his torso down and causing other medical issues from wounds sustained that day.
Tyler came to Crystal’s clinic after experiencing some of the lowest moments of his life yet was committed to putting in the work to make progress. Tyler challenged Crystal’s professional knowledge and strength and became one of her biggest success stories. Little did Crystal or Tyler know how great an impact they would have on each other, and three years later realizing there was undeniable chemistry, they were married. Their relationship continued to grow, supporting each other through many ups, downs, good times, bad times, and everything in between.
Crystal balances helping Tyler with activities of daily living and taking care of their two young children. Tyler is enrolled in school, studying finance, and participates in adaptive sports activities, while Crystal is studying to become a firefighter/paramedic.
Crystal’s best day as a caregiver was when she invited their new neighbors to a surprise party to celebrate Tyler’s Alive Day—a commemoration of surviving a nearly fatal incident—in a community park. At the time, they were new to a neighborhood not familiar with the military community, so she explained what his Alive Day meant and asked neighbors to spend an afternoon with them. When all the families were together, Crystal and Tyler brought out his adaptive sports equipment so that he could play with the kids. For the first time, they felt that his Alive Day was about more than just what happened in Afghanistan; they saw it as a chance to teach people about living with disabilities and becoming a true part of the community. It was a day of celebration and pride.
Post-injury love is to be commended, as it takes a strong amount of faith and will to manage the challenges of injuries like that of Tyler's. Crystal and Tyler are now parents to two healthy boys. The couple works with IVF4Vets and has lobbied on Capitol Hill to advocate for VA coverage of fertility treatments, address combat-related infertility, and normalize the use of IVF, which helped create their miracle family. They played a critical role in Colorado becoming the 18th state to financially support IVF treatments. Crystal and Tyler continue to help make progress toward permanent solutions for infertility coverage.