Irishman Michael Wilton and his American-born wife Amber had just embarked on the early days of marriage and were still very much in the honeymoon phase and enjoying life when a horrific accident on December 18 of last year left the young bride critically injured.
Amber was hit by a car while out walking in the Woodlawn section of the Bronx, and left critically injured while her husband was working just a few blocks away. The native New Yorker suffered horrifying injuries, including a broken back, five broken ribs, a fractured pelvis and a dislocated leg as well as needing more than 20 stitches for another wound on her leg.
Michael is a Co. Louth native who made the move to New York, as he told the Irish Voice this week, “in search of something a bit different.’” Little did the 32-year old know that his new life would change so much as he found the love of his life in Woodlawn.
Amber, who is from a Spanish background, had been living in Queens but moved to the heavily Irish enclave of Woodlawn. She worked as a public wage investigator in Manhattan before her accident, and was taken by Michael’s Irish charm.
The couple was engaged in New York’s Finger Lake district after a steady romance. Michael says that Amber joked after a few moments of looking at her engagement ring, “If it’s a joke you can take the ring back.”
The couple chose to have a small civil ceremony in New York last year as Amber is from a smaller family, but Michael says they planned to return to Ireland later this year to renew their vows and host a more traditional Irish wedding for members of his extended family.
Unfortunately, this plan has been put on hold due to the extent of Amber’s injuries. The young couple is now focusing all their energy on trying to rebuild their lives.
Michael recalled the horror of discovering his wife had been knocked down. “When I got the call, I genuinely thought someone was having a joke with me,” Michael told the Irish Voice. “I just couldn’t believe it.” Michael said. When Amber was rushed to hospital they didn’t realize the extent of how serious the accident had been.
Four months later and Amber’s husband says that things are going “just okay.”
“Amber is shocking all the medical experts. But she still has a long way to go,” Michael said.
“My wife has taken her first steps since the accident thanks to a brilliant rehabilitation program and those looking after her.”
Amber was released from hospital on March 7 and has returned home where Michael has assumed the role of primary care giver.
“Believe it or not I’m an extremely positive person. The accident has obviously been a strain but Amber has been amazing. The experience has definitely made us stronger,” Michael said.
“We now rely on each other for so much more.”
Instead of enjoying the fruitful early months of marriage, the Wiltons coordinate their lives around Amber’s medical routine. The gym is a large part of their day. The couple currently live in a top floor apartment which has made home rehabilitation difficult as Michael says that Amber is unable to even bend over to put on socks.
The Wiltons are grateful that a chunk of Amber’s medical expenses have been covered through insurance policies, but they still have to make up the deficit.
Amber had been a patient at one of the country’s first physical rehabilitation facilities, the Helen Hayes Hospital, which is widely recognized as a leader in rehabilitation medicine. She is still attending the hospital and will continue to do so as an outpatient.
However, her employer is no longer paying the premiums on her insurance policy, and the Wiltons are also responsible for all of her after care expenses. Michael has also had to give up his job as a plumber to take care of his wife’s daily needs.
Michael says the support from the Woodlawn community and greater public has been exceptional.
“I really can’t believe the goodness of people, whether it came from prayer, donations to the fundraiser page or just a kind word on the street,” Michael said.
“It’s truly been exceptional and something both Amber and I are extremely grateful for.”
Michael had the support of his mother, who flew over from Ireland after the accident which he says was a massive support at the time. The proud Irishman did not want to burden his family with added worries.
The Irish community will gather on Sunday, April 13at the popular Rambling House bar and restaurant, 4292 Katonah Avenue, Woodlawn, for a fundraiser to help defray Amber’s continued medical costs. To donate to the cause visit their YouCaring page.