It had been a frustrating morning for Renee Bondibut you'd never guess it from her smile. As this Christian recording artist with the angelic singing voice and bright blue eyes welcomed me into her Southern California home, she apologized for being behind in her schedule.
For most women, this would be a miscalculation. For Renee, 42, it's an example of the challenge she faces daily in a life constrained by paralysis. Renee's caretaker, whose alarm clock had failed to go off that morning, had arrived late to Renee's home to ready her for the day. With her husband of 11 years, Mike, already off to work, all Renee could do was lie in bed. "There were a zillion things I wanted to have done before you got here, such as make sure the banana bread was baked and fresh orange juice was squeezed," she explains. "But I couldn't do a single thing except wait."
Thirteen years ago, Renee didn't have to contend with such dependency. She had what she calls a "great life"teaching choral music at the high school in her hometown of San Juan Capistrano, California, singing professionally, leading music at her church, and dancing with Mike, then her fiance, under the stars.
Then unexpected tragedy struck. In 1988, two months shy of her wedding day, Renee was in a freak accident that left her a quadraplegic. A year after her five-month hospital stay, during which Renee underwent surgery to fuse her neck bones, as well as rehab and occupational therapy, Mike and Renee married.
Six years after her accident, tragedy struck againthis time with her sister, Michelle, who was paralyzed in an accident while on a family vacation. As Renee labored to give birth to her son, Daniel, now six, Michelle valiantly fought for her life in another hospital in a nearby town.1