BROADVIEW - In most senses, Ryan and Jamie Richard are like any other newlyweds.
They laugh easily and are excited to settle into their own home.
In other ways, they're like folks who have been married decades and who finish each other's stories and have their little spats.
Their wedding on Saturday was symbolic of Ryan's complete trust in Jamie and her total commitment to him. Both have muscular dystrophy. However, Jamie's variation is a slowly progressing type and she shows few or no symptoms, while Ryan's has progressed to leaving him a quadriplegic.
"About all I can do is talk," he said.
Her role as caregiver
For the last few years, Jamie has cared for Ryan, doing everything he needs, from gently scratching his chin to transferring him each time he needs to move. She even pulled out a tissue to wipe his tears during their wedding in front of about 200 friends and family at Laurel United Methodist Church.
Ryan acknowledges that caring for him is hard work. "Jamie has got such a big heart," he said.
Jamie doesn't mind, she said, as long as she gets to be with her husband.
Jamie recalls being in love at first sight when they met at a Muscular Dystrophy Association camp eight years ago, when Jamie was 12 and Ryan was 17. Shy and not ready to talk to Ryan, Jamie made friends with his camp counselor, Bob Weinch, and started doing activities with Ryan - and secretly taking photos of him.
Ryan lived in Wolf Point ,and Jamie's family lives in Broadview. During the next few years, Ryan and Jamie would hang out together for a week at MDA camp and again for a few days during the annual MDA telethon.
By the time she was 15 and he was 20, they decided to try being a long-distance couple. It did not work out well. She was a freshman in high school and both say not sure what she wanted.
"I broke his heart," Jamie said.
Ryan ended up moving with family to North Dakota, which deepened the gulf between them. Then, in 2006, Ryan decided to come to the telethon. He asked Weinch if he should call Jamie. Yes, Weinch said.
Jamie wasn't home to take the call but she was thrilled to receive his message.
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"I started crying, I was so happy," she said.
Within a month, Ryan fell ill and was hospitalized. His form of MD, called Duchenne, causes an absence of the protein that keeps muscles together. He was diagnosed at age 3, started using a wheelchair at age 7 and has lost all muscular control below his neck. His lungs are weak, and pneumonia can be deadly.
Jamie and her mom, Paula Bailey, went to visit Ryan just after he was released from the hospital. The day they were to leave, a tire blew on the family car and they stayed. That next day, Oct. 22, 2006, Jamie and Ryan officially started dating. The spoke daily until Ryan came to Jamie's graduation in May 2007.
Jamie thought of going to college after high school, but it was more important to be with Ryan, who has already outlived his life expectancy of 21.
"I'd rather spend my time with Ryan," Jamie said.
She made the decision to move to South Dakota, where Ryan had moved with his family.
"I never thought I'd find anyone," Ryan said. "It's a lot of work to take care of me. She does everything for me. Everything."
Ryan has feeling throughout his body, something Jamie proved when she leaned over to lovingly pinch his thigh. When he and Jamie met, Ryan could still guide his own powered wheelchair and use his hands. Those abilities are gone, but his attitude remains upbeat.
"It's life; it's all I've known," Ryan said. "I wouldn't change a thing. It's the way it's supposed to be."
Ryan couldn't kneel and make a big deal out of his marriage proposal. He proposed while they were sitting on the couch together, and Jamie's eyes still sparkle when he tells the story. They both laugh at how it took more than a week for him to get up the courage to ask her dad's permission on a trip to Montana.
Jamie has Charcot-Marie-Tooth disorder, which affects the signals between the brain and spinal cord and the rest of the body. She has a high arch, and said wearing high heels is pretty detrimental - especially if she is carrying Ryan. Luckily, she didn't have that problem on their wedding night when at the reception she lifted him out of his wheelchair for the beginning of their first dance as a married couple.
"There weren't many dry eyes," her dad, Todd Bailey, said.
They danced in each other's arms for a few moments then switched to dancing with Ryan in his wheelchair. She even released the seat and "dipped" him.
"They did it up right," Todd said.
For now, the couple is living with Jamie's parents in Broadview. They have converted two rooms to their own - creating a bedroom and a living area - and settled in until an appropriate and affordable place is available in Billings. In the meantime, all in the family, including Jamie's sisters, tease each other, and they are all entertained by Ryan's therapy dog, Duke.
Both Jamie and Ryan's families are thrilled with their friendship that bloomed into love.
"It's the icing on the cake now," Todd said. "They're hopefully going to have a long life together."