After groom-to-be Brett Greenhill became paralyzed after a swimming accident at his joint bachelor/bachelorette party on Dec. 2, 2016, his world with his fiancée, Meg Alexander, turned upside down.
But despite the unimaginable challenges they faced ahead, the couple tied the knot in front of 100 of their closest friends and family in Atlanta, Georgia, on September 9.
“It was the most exciting and special day,” Meg, 30, tells PEOPLE. “Especially after everything that’s happened. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.”
To this very day, she says, they haven’t lost sight of their goal to build a life together.
“When you set a goal, sometimes it takes a little longer to get there than you anticipated, but if you work hard together you can make it happen,” she says. “They say for better for worse, for richer for poorer — and I guess we got that out of the way early.”
Adds Brett: “We’re a team and really just a great couple.”
The Moment That Changed Everything
At their joint party in Naples, Florida, before their wedding, which was originally planned for February 2017, Brett was playing football with his friends on the beach when he decided to go for a swim.
“Brett went into the water and all of a sudden my friend Kelsey says, ‘Why is Brett doing that? Why is he floating like that?’ ” Meg told PEOPLE days after the incident. “I was like, ‘I don’t know, he’s a goofball’ and she went to check on him.”
Seconds later she heard screams and the next thing she knew her friend was stabilizing his neck as her mom called 911.
After getting him onto the sand, Brett looked up at his fiancée and said, “I can’t feel anything. Meg, I love you so much and I’m so sorry. I love you so much.”
She quickly replied, “I love you. Don’t be sorry. We’re going to figure out what’s wrong with you.”
After was air-lifted to Lee Memorial Hospital in Fort Myers, Florida, they learned that he became paralyzed from the neck down after hitting his head on what they think was a sandbar.
“When accidents happen you can’t control that. It’s just a thing in life and it happens,” says Meg. “What you can control is the way you treat people and your mindset. Those are the things we try and focus on — being good to each other and being good to others.”
Looking back, Brett, 39, who is accountant and plans to eventually work again, says, “It was a catastrophic experience, but we’ve come a long, long way.”
Their “Longterm Journey”
“It’s been a roller coaster,” says Brett about life since the accident. “There have been a lot of good days and a lot of bad days. It’s been an adventure, but people keep reminding me that this is just the beginning of a longterm journey.”
Since his first day at the hospital — when he was completely paralyzed from the neck down and had no feeling in his body — Brett has made huge strides. He’s regained some arm strength and wrist movement. And because he’s an incomplete quadriplegic, there is a chance his movement will continue to improve.
“Every spinal cord injury is like a snowflake,” says Meg. “Some people walk again and others never get off a ventilator.”
His next big goal is to move from a power wheelchair to a manual one, something that will give him more independence.
“We can then go out for rolls together versus runs,” Brett says laughing. “We’d also be able to travel a lot easier.”
But their biggest goal of all is to grow their family of two to three.
“We’d love to start a family in the next two years,” says Meg, “and build a home that will be easier for us to live in.”
Brett adds: “Everything changed, but we’re still just as determined to live the life we wanted for ourselves.”
Making It Official
Despite their hectic schedules, which consists of balancing Brett’s physical therapy and training with Meg’s full-time job, the couple was still able to plan their Southern vintage-themed wedding and celebrate with those who continue to support them.
“Everyone keeps talking about his face [at the alter],” Meg recalls about their wedding day. “He was just so happy and I was too.”
Before the accident, the couple had originally planned to backpack around New Zealand, but after Brett’s accident, they had to figure out a Plan B.
A few days after their wedding, they drove from Atlanta to Chicago with Meg’s sister Mollie, took a two-day Amtrak train to Seattle and went on a week-long cruise to Alaska.
“We will eventually get to New Zealand,” says Meg. “But this was just as fun.”
They traveled to three cities around Alaska and didn’t let anything stop them exploring. To help with their steep medical bills, future procedures and rehabilitation, a foundation was created where people can donate to help with Brett’s long recovery.
They both attribute the love they have for one another and their faith for getting them to this point.
“Meg sells herself short,” says Brett. “She’s truly amazing. She’s the complete package.”
Adds Meg: “Brett has always been the strongest guy I’ve ever known. This has been challenging physically, emotionally and spiritually, but he has risen to the top and continues to every day. I’m really proud of him.
“One thing that we’ve really been trying to do is just to keep each other positive. Some days are really bad for me and Brett will kind of talk me down the ledge and bring me back to reality. It’s the same for him. On his bad days I try to lift him up.”
At the end of the day, Meg says “life is amazing” and their future is bright.
“It looks different than we thought it would, but who actually ever thinks life is going to turn out the way they think it is?” she says.
Adds Brett: “We have twists and turns and ups and downs coming our way, but we’re excited. We’re in this together.”