Weddings are always beautiful and moving occasions. But when the bride is a wheelchair-bound paraplegic who nearly died when Lupus attacked her entire body marrying a groom who is also wheelchair-bound and paralyzed from a gunshot wound, there isn’t a dry eye in the house. Such was the case when Perneita Farrar, 39, and her new husband Troy Fitzgerald, whom she met through mutual friends, tied the knot recently at the University of Maryland wedding chapel. Their proud guests were overcome with joy, and hope and love were the theme of the day.
Farrar was diagnosed with Lupus 13 years ago and the chronic inflammatory disease nearly killed her. Five years after being diagnosed, the disease attacked her spinal chord, leaving her paralyzed with her vital organs failing. After shrinking from a size 10 to a zero, her doctors felt it was a battle she couldn’t win. For 848 days, Farrar shuttled between nursing homes and hospitals, thinking each day might be her last. She was begging God to die.
Miraculously, she survived. Holding tight to her faith, Farrar moved to a specially outfitted apartment and joined a nearby church. Shortly thereafter, she was reintroduced to Fitzgerald, whom she’d met once before at a friend’s wedding. Fitzgerald, a motivational speaker and health and nutrition coach, who like Farrar had been wheelchair bound for some time, provided Farrar with something she needed most – true friendship. “She was going through her journey,” he says. “I didn’t try to force anything on her, but I did try to get her to focus on what she had, rather than what she lost. And I told her, ‘You have me.’” At the time, Fitzgerald was a single and celibate father to a 26-year-old daughter. “We didn’t want to be any place that God didn’t want us to be,” Ferrar says. “Six months later we were talking marriage. By the eighth month we were engaged.”
Read more of their story in the December issue of ESSENCE (on stands now!) and see sweet moments from their wedding day above.
Photography by Andre Lambertson