RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) - August 14th. Wednesday. The day Leah Nixon Fitzgerald and her sister Grace chose to unveil a new line of greeting cards. But this is not a story about cards.
Leah Nixon at home sitting in her wheelchair with her dog, Lucy. (KOTA TV)
So what is it about? And why today?
The answer is found in the fine line between life and death, with messages that transcend time.
From August 14th to August 14th. 1 year. 2 extremes. 2 sisters where there could have been just 1.
"Keep dancing!" That's what Grace Nixon Peterson and Leah Nixon Fitzgerald sang, and laughed, as they read the words on one of the cards, in their newly released collection.
"August 14th last year was the most devastating day of my life. Getting the call from my Mom that Leah had been in a severe accident and we didn't know if she would live or die," says Grace Lee Nixon, Leah's sister.
The two sisters, with a relationship tighter than glue, own a stationery company together.
"'Tiny and Snail' which is me and my sister. It's called the 'Keep Dancing Collection' and it's 11 cards to send to people you love when things are rough," says Leah Nixon Fitzgerald, as she talks to us from her wheelchair.
Leah is paralyzed from the armpits down from a construction accident exactly 1 year ago.
See related story The perseverance of Leah Nixon
"It taught me that we're all mortal, we could die literally any day," Leah says.
"Leah could have died so many times . We got a second chance to be able to have a sister to accompany me through life and that I get to accompany her," says Leah's older sister Grace.
"A month in ICU. 3 months at Craig Hospital. 3 months in rehab at QLI in Omaha," Leah says, describing her road to rehabilitation which included 2 back surgeries.
The sisters choosing this day to launch their new card line.
"And take a day that could be so full of sorrow and say 'No we claim this day as a celebration where that was not the end of the story that was the beginning of a new story," says Grace.
Leah's house is being renovated to be more wheelchair accessible. It's in transition, as is Leah's life.
This summer Leah married her fiance', Kelsey James Fitzgerald. She drives a hand controlled van. She's rolling forward with life.
"Shine like the whole universe is yours. Rumi," says Leah as she reads the front of one of one of their new cards.
Steve: Leah was considering a lot of career options. An accident perhaps pointing to destiny. Laughter where there was once tears.
"Ya know. The Telehandler fell on me and it sort of limited some options, which was kinda helpful in a way because it's like the universe was telling me , like 'No Leah, you have 2 hands that are meant to make art, you have a brain that's meant to make art. So just do it," says Leah as describes what happened when a large piece of construction equipment fell on her, crushing her body.
While paralyzed from the armpits down, Leah has constant nerve pain that moves around her body at will.
"It's my main battle now. It's not that it's longer to get around or get in our out of my van. It's that every single day I have this chronic pain within me," says Leah.
From her pain, comes beauty and opportunity as an artist.
"I want people to keep dancing. Life is so brutal and it's so beautiful and those things co-exist side by side," says Grace.
"This is a way that you can send a part of yourself in the mail to someone you love and show that you're there with them. And in a way, even if you die you would still be there, like part of you would still be with them," Leah says poignantly.
And everyday is a new first. Yesterday, she rode a horse for the first time since the accident. If you're interested in those cards, they're available on the Tiny and Snail website.