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Home : News : Article Display
NEWS | May 10, 2024

Support Behind the Scenes

By Senior Airman Olivia Bithell

The night didn’t start out crazy at all. In fact, it started the same way as many of our cold winter nights do after a really long day of work, my husband Tom and I cuddled up, watching our favorite tv show.

Wanting a glass a water, I made my way downstairs to the kitchen. Our dog, Rainbow followed. As I went back up the stairs, it happened.


A loud crack sounded from outside. Rainbow beelined down the stairs in terror, sweeping my left leg along with her. My foot somehow lodged between the wrought iron metal railings; I felt a quick snapping pain. I extended my arm to stop our fall but was not successful. We tumbled down the stairs onto the cold, hard floor.

“OH MY GOD! BABE! ARE YOU OKAY?” Tom, yelled as he launched himself down the stairs towards me.

After Tom helped me up and checked on own dog, I felt a sense of relief: she was fine.

Around 5:00 a.m. I woke up in complete agony.

“Tom, something is wrong!” Waking up to my cries, he immediately went into “DEFCON 1” mode.

I was inconsolable. He got me dressed, combed my hair, brushed my teeth, tried his best to put my hair in a ponytail and got me in the car.

I never thought I would have to count on Tom in such a way like this until I was old and gray. It was in this moment; my husband showed early in our two years of marriage that he would always take care of me, through sickness and in health.

To think, he did all that and drove me to the emergency room, while dealing with his own arm injury.

True to himself, in moments of crises, I can always count on Tom to make me smile. He helped keep my spirits up and my mind off the pain as he cracked jokes with me.

“Hey, at least there won’t be a waiting time,” he joked, as we looked around the waiting room and noticed we were the only people there.

After a ten-minute wait, there was nurse after nurse, doctor after doctor, and x-ray after x-ray, but the whole time, I had Tom by my side holding my hand.

The news was not good…

The doctor said, “I’m sorry to tell you this Airman Bithell, but you have three broken metatarsals in your foot and a fractured radial head in your arm.”

The news was daunting. I did not fully grasp what was being said to me and a feeling of panic started to settle in. As my heart began to beat faster and harder I heard, “It’ll be okay baby,” as Tom hugged me.

I wasn’t the only one going through a lot: Tom had to see me in extreme pain, complete the required paperwork, get my prescriptions and keep my family who were more than 2,200 miles away updated.

Being away from my family in Utah made my whole experience more overwhelming. I wished I had my mom and dad, but I didn’t. I then realized Utah is where I am from, but home is where Tom is.

Four days after my fall, I went in for what turned into a six-hour surgery. One rod, three plates, and a number of screws later, I woke up to my foot in a splint and Tom being by my side. Seeing him there smiling at me was one of the happiest moments in my life.

True to his nature, he made me laugh. Teasing me that my first words when I woke up were surely a request for water (something I always ask for at home, “Can you bring the water bottle with you?”). As he kissed my forehead, I replied in a tired voice, “I didn’t, I only talked about you.”

My injuries flipped our whole life upside down, but they also made me truly appreciate Tom even more.

In the blink of an eye, he made sacrifices beyond what either of us were prepared for in our twenties. We prepared for the typical military scenarios: being thousands of miles away from family, extended temporary duties, long deployments, and constant moves. A situation where I could not walk or even crawl around the house never crossed our minds.

Throughout my recovery, Tom truly embodied the definition of a good husband and supportive military spouse. From the little things like making dinner, the surprising things like coming home with flowers, to the big things like dropping his schedule. He made me feel loved even when I didn’t really love myself and helped me realize this was a small setback in the grand scheme of our life together.

Tom by my side made recovery more manageable. I’m sure millions of service members like me can agree, with the support of our spouses, resiliency in military life becomes easier to embody. Their support is present before a deployment or a move. It is there every day, during the long nights, short-notice assignments, canceled leave or dealing with the daily obstacles of service.

Tom stood by me from the moment I fell, to the time I could walk again six months later. He never complained, but he sacrificed every day to take care of me.

In recognition of Military Spouse Appreciation Day, this article was a small gesture to show my appreciation to my husband and highlight the sacrifice and support spouses provide every day. To my fellow service members, don’t forget to take the time today and every day to say thank you to your partner in service, your spouse.