As a couple who share a formidable internet following, it may be somewhat shocking to learn that Charisma Jamison and Cole Sydnor met the old-fashion way.
In November 2017, Ms. Jamison, at the time an inpatient rehab technician at Sheltering Arms Physical Rehabilitation Centers in Richmond, Va., noticed Mr. Sydnor working out on the outpatient side of the facility. Mr. Sydnor is a C5/C6 quadriplegic — he’s completely lost function of his hands, trunk and legs, with limited function in his arms, wrists and shoulders. He was injured in 2011, when he struck a rock with his head after diving into the James River in Virginia.
When Ms. Jamison saw Mr. Sydnor across the room, she didn’t see someone with limitations — she saw a friendly smile and a pair of bright, blue eyes.
“It was very easy to look past physical limitations being in my career,” Ms. Jamison, 26, said. “And the fact that Cole was super attractive didn’t hurt.”
Despite not working on the outpatient side of Sheltering Arms, Ms. Jamison found herself offering a helping hand to Mr. Sydnor as he finished working out on an electrical stimulation bike, which helps shock his muscles into operating the bike.
“I had electrical pads on my legs, buttocks, and I was exhausted and sweaty,” Mr. Sydnor, 25, recalled. “It was not the first impression I was looking for.”
They had a friendly, flirty conversation and would meet again a few days later at the Sheltering Arms annual fund-raising gala. Mr. Sydnor’s mother, Kelly Sydnor, met Ms. Jamison at the gala and invited her to sit at their family’s table. She declined, but a good first impression had been made.
“I just thought she was radiant and lovely,” Kelly Sydnor said of their encounter. “When Cole told me about Charisma, I was really glad to hear they were going on a date. I could tell she was so authentic.”
Ms. Jamison and Mr. Sydnor exchanged pleasantries once again at the gala, and later that night, she followed him on Instagram. Mr. Sydnor returned the favor, and then he “slid into my DMs,” messaging each other on the app, Ms. Jamison said.
They became a couple several weeks later, on Dec. 1, 2017.
The questions started to arrive immediately from friends, family, and the occasional judgment from passers-by. What was it like dating a quadriplegic? What is it like being an interabled couple? What is an interabled couple?
“I knew it would be tough for them,” Mrs. Sydnor said. “I told Charisma early on, ‘You know you’re choosing a difficult road, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t travel it.’” Ms. Jamison is very close with her parents, Katrina and Derrick Jamison. When she came to them about Mr. Sydnor, they were cautious at first, but very supportive.
“Charisma has always talked to us and values our opinion,” her mother said. “She came home one day and asked how Derrick and I about an abled person dating someone that has a disability.