By Sara Gaynes Levy
When Sev swiped right on Heather, it was by accident. Sev, who works for a not-for-profit in Sydney, Australia, was recently single and on Bumble just to see who was out there. She has cerebral palsy, a group of disorders that interfere with the brain’s ability to move and control muscles. Because of her cerebral palsy, Sev is unable to speak. Instead, she communicates through a device called an eye gaze (hers is a Tellus), which tracks her eyes’ movements and converts them to spoken or written text. (The Tellus can also be hooked up to a mobile phone or used as a personal computer, allowing access to apps like Bumble). While the device is very accurate, accidents happen, hence the unintentional swipe on Heather’s profile.
“Sev was like, ‘Oh well, what are the chances that she’ll swipe right too?’” says Heather with a laugh. Heather had, of course, also swiped right. “Reading through Sev’s profile, there was just something about her that I had to get to know.” The two matched on New Year’s Day 2020, and chatted for a bit before meeting up a few weeks later. The chemistry was instant.
“It was amazing,” Sev says. “Heather walked up to me and gave me my first kiss.” Heather remembers feeling the same spark the moment the two first met. “Sev just got me,” she says. “She took me for who I am—no matter how bad my jokes are!” Heather continued traveling to see Sev on weekends, even though she lived nearly an hour and a half away by train. They spent their time together talking about their families and connecting over their mutual love of video games.
Their relationship had just begun when the coronavirus lockdowns hit Australia, and Sev and Heather were worried that they wouldn’t be able to see each other. But thankfully Sev and one of her disability support workers were able to coordinate a ride to Sydney for Heather. Quarantine put their relationship in the fast lane, and once she was dropped off, Heather essentially moved into Sev’s apartment, assuming some of her caretaking as well, since the disability support team was often not able to travel to her safely. “Some of Sev’s support workers had to stop working with her because it wasn’t safe for them to travel by trains and buses with COVID around,” says Heather. “So I stepped up and helped out when we couldn’t get a shift covered.”
Heather quickly became Sev’s number one supporter. “I help her get out of bed, give her medication if she needs it, all that stuff,” says Heather. “One day, something happened with Sev when she was in her sling, which is something I use to transfer her to and from her wheelchair. I helped her out, and cuddled her saying, ‘It’s okay, I’m not going anywhere. I got you baby girl.’”
After she was back in her chair, Sev thanked Heather, and remarked that she didn’t think her ex would’ve helped her like that—she would’ve walked away. “And she looked at me and was like, ‘You’re the one,’” Heather says. “‘You’re definitely the one to stay forever. I can’t believe I am going to ask this, but would you marry me?’” The answer, immediately, was yes. From their first meeting, Heather says, Sev made her feel safe, and that sealed the deal. The accidental swipe really was a stroke of serendipity. “We probably wouldn’t have met if it weren’t for Bumble,” Heather says.
The two have started planning their wedding for February 2022, and have already chosen a date and a venue. Sev has picked out a dress in pink, her signature color. Not only is her hair pink, but she runs an Instagram account called @pinkendowarrior, where she chronicles another health condition, her stage three endometriosis. Sev’s flare-ups can be debilitating and unpredictable. “Living with this disease and my disability is very challenging at times, because both endometriosis and cerebral palsy go against each other a lot of the time,” she wrote on one of her Instagram posts. “It’s really hard for me to see her in pain,” Heather says of Sev’s endometrial flare-ups. “All I can do is hold her to make sure she doesn’t shake from the pain and say that it’s going to be okay,” she says. “She gives me support every day,” adds Sev.
It’s that support that has allowed Sev to pursue a major goal ahead of their big day: walking down the aisle. “At the moment we’re doing lots of leg strengthening exercises, like stepping, standing for two to five minutes, and leg extensions,” Sev says. “It makes me feel very happy to think about walking to her.” And Heather, for her part, can’t wait to see it.