On May 4, hours after Tiffany Kosiancic lay on the emergency-room table while surgeons scrambled to save her left foot, crushed in a head-on collision, a thought seized her: the wedding.
Ms. Kosiancic, 25, and her then-fiancé, Ryan Neal, 26, were engaged to be married on their seventh anniversary, July 5, at their home in Lumby, B.C.
The couple had been on their way to Kelowna that afternoon to see country singer Luke Bryan in concert, a surprise for Mr. Neal. Just before 4 p.m. on a stretch of Highway 97 just south of Vernon, a white Pontiac Sunfire swerved across the centre line and struck their Dodge pickup head-on. The truck landed on its roof.
“When I saw her hanging there, I undid her buckle so she would fall on to me and not the glass, and then I kept her between my legs and I shimmied out,” said Mr. Neal, released from hospital that night after suffering minor injuries. “The best thing was I could take care of her and keep her calm. I made sure she didn’t see what everyone else could.”
What Mr. Neal and first responders saw was Ms. Kosiancic’s left foot, hanging by a tendon. One surgeon at Kelowna General Hospital told her it was the worst he’d seen in years, and because it had been crushed into hundreds of slivers (one bone alone was shattered into 30 pieces), he doubted her foot could be saved.
But they were getting married in eight weeks. Would she be able to walk down the aisle? Would the wedding even go on?
While the couple debated these questions and counted their blessings, another family was in mourning. Rodney Boring, the 14-year-old passenger of the other car, died at the scene. He’d been on his way back home to Vernon after playing one of his season’s best flag football games, returning an interception for a touchdown.
It turned out the two families knew of one another: Mr. Neal’s younger brother played football with Boring.
Over the course of Ms. Kosiancic’s 16 days in hospital, the couple decided they needed something to look forward to.
“At the end of the day, [we thought], we’re going to be married and that’s the important thing,” she said. “I’m still here. I’m still in one piece.”
Still, for Ms. Kosiancic, a woman who hunted and rode horses and dirt bikes on weekends, the question plagued her: How would she get down the aisle? Her left foot was still largely in pieces, held together by “lots of metal.” Her right foot had been broken and couldn’t bear weight.
“I really wanted to walk down the aisle and stand with Ryan at the bottom,” she said.
Between surgeries, in her wheelchair, she hoped and prayed that by July 5 she’d be able to stand, at least long enough to say, “I do.” A week before the big day, her doctor told her, “Just for the vows.”
On Saturday afternoon, she emerged from her bedroom in a chiffon, satin and lace dress, one brown cowboy boot, and a pair of crutches. Her dad, a bear of a man in a black Stetson, carried her bouquet.
At the altar, she stood on one foot for all eleven minutes of their ceremony.
After the marriage commissioner introduced the bride and groom, after Mr. Neal picked her up and carried her back down the aisle, she let out a breath.
“It was hard, but I practised, and I had Ryan.”