When Tim and Nicole Eastman chose Grand Cayman as the location for their destination wedding, they never would have dreamed that two years later they would be calling the Cayman Islands home.
They also never dreamed that just two weeks after making their vows, their lives would be turned upside down, and those vows sorely tested.
Driving along the freeway, Mrs. Eastman was hit by a semi truck. The truck hit her car four times as it spun from the impact, at 65 miles per hour. “Literally every aspect of my life changed within seconds,” she says of the accident.
Nicole suffered a mild traumatic brain injury, a spinal injury and severe post traumatic stress disorder.
Even after spinal surgery, she was unable to stand for more than five minutes at a time and her new husband found himself being her caregiver within weeks of getting married.
A qualified doctor prior to the accident, and an active and fit individual, Mrs. Eastman is now on permanent disability.
“I went from working 80 hour weeks to having permanent spinal damage,” she said.
“Between travelling time and the therapies I was spending 35 hours a week receiving treatment. I literally became a professional patient.”
The pain however, did not abate, and the harsh climate in Michigan, where the couple was living, aggravated it.
Mrs. Eastman spent seven consecutive months in bed during the year following the accident.
In addition to being disabled by the accident and in constant pain, the couple say they felt isolated and let down by the people they thought cared about them.
Even relations with their families became strained.
It was a very low time for Mrs. Eastman and she recalls at times thinking it would have been better to have died than to be living with the pain and loneliness she was experiencing daily.
“Then, one day, I realised I had God,” she recalls.
“I really latched onto my faith and we started going to church and got re-baptised in August 2011.”
A year after their wedding, Tim and Nicole returned to Cayman to renew their vows. While they were here they met with, and were counselled by, Oral McLaughlin, the pastor who had married them the previous year.
“He told us that we were supposed to be here,” they say.
A minister back in Michigan told them the same thing and the couple began to believe that they were indeed being led to Cayman.
Without much further ado – or much support from friends at home – they took a leap of faith: they sold up, packed up and moved to Cayman in August 2012.
Although they live in a modest apartment, have only one car between the two of them and Mrs. Eastman is still in pain, their quality of life has definitely improved.
The climate here means that she is not bed-ridden and can be up and about much more.
She feels her best when she can bathe in salt water but more than anything the people they have met since their arrival have offered them the support and comfort they were missing at home.
“I was so socially isolated in Michigan,” she said. “I really had nobody other than my husband … We were kind of overwhelmed here by some of the Caymanian people we met, because it was just authentic caring.
Meeting people that feel like family in such a short period of time – it was very different to what we left.”
Two weeks before Christmas, Mrs. Eastman gave birth to their first baby.
Two years to the day after she was almost killed in a car accident, the couple took their baby home to North Side.
The past two years have been a true test for the young couple and it took a leap of faith to move to Cayman, but now they can’t imagine anywhere they would rather be.
It wasn’t an easy move, they say, but it was definitely the right move.