Not Your Average Love Story

2:34:00 PM


I've known Sophie pretty much the whole time we've been in college, but became close with her about a year ago. Let me tell you, Sophie is a nut. A super lovable, crazy nut, but a nut nonetheless. I am completely honored to tell her story because let met tell you, she deserves it.

Sophie happens to be the kindest, most caring person I've ever met. She'll be the first to tell you that her life is a bit unusual. Her dad teaches at a school for the deaf and blind. Her mom and dad met at a summer camp and basically fell in love at first site. Her mom immigrated to the US from England to be with him and now works as a nurse.

With both of her parents having professional backgrounds in serving others, she was taught early on to give everything her all. Sophie's best friend Martha suffered a spinal cord injury our freshman year, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down. Being the person that Sophie is, she has stood fiercely by her side ever since. They lived together for the rest of college from that point on.

Sophie and Martha


Michal was the All-American boy. He was the quarterback on his high school football team and a top baseball player. He also played basketball and ran track. He spent all of his time in high school playing sports.

When he began college, he went all in. He joined the Theta Chi fraternity as their Pledge Class President and flourished in the new social realm that college created. 

Then on May 17, 2015 his life changed forever. He had just gotten home from his freshman year of college for the summer and was hanging out with a group of friends at a friend's house by the pool. It was nighttime. He dove into the pool and the next thing he remembers is waking up in the ICU.

I awoke this morning not too unlike any other ordinary day: I turned my alarm off, checked the messages and notifications I had received during the night, and aimlessly browsed social media for a few minutes until I built up enough motivation to get going. It wasn't until later into the morning that it occurred to me – today marks the one year anniversary of my injury, and took a moment to reflect on that. I have been so unbelievably blessed and humbled by the help and support I have received from my family, friends, doctors, therapists, and total strangers, alike. Words truly cannot express how grateful I am for the benevolence and generosity that has been shown to me this past year, and I wouldn't be anywhere near where I am today without it. With that being said, my plan moving forward is to return to living in Columbia in the Fall, and continuing on with my education at USC. Something about this morning – the way that it felt so indifferent to any other day – made me think back to the morning of May 17th of last year. I didn't wake up planning on breaking my neck, as there are things in life that are just completely out of our control. The only thing we, as humans, can do, is try and make the best of what we have and keep rolling (Ha!) forward.
A post shared by Michal Hoge (@mhoge6) on

Michal broke his C5-C7 spinal cord segments on his vertebrae, effectively becoming a quadriplegic. He worked hard in his physical therapy to regain use all the way up to his C-6, allowing him to have limited use of his arms. It was hard work. He spent 7 weeks in intensive care in Columbia, SC before moving to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, GA for 6 months to learn how to live his life as a quadriplegic. It was physically and mentally grueling.

Through his recovery at the Shepherd Center Michal had to struggle with his new reality. From the very first time I met Michal I can tell you it was immediately clear that he wasn't going to let his injury define him. He is confident and exuberant and has a way of making you feel like you've been friends for years even when you've just met. I remember asking him a few weeks after we met how he remained so positive. He told me that he had to. He could choose to be angry or he could focus on the good that he still has in his life.

It was in his time at the Shepherd Center that Sophie and Michal's paths crossed.

How They Met

Michal and Martha attended the same rehab center in Atlanta just a year apart. Since they both attended USC, the people at the Shepherd Center told him about her. Martha was working at the USC Visitor's Center when Michal came to tour after deciding to come back to school in June 2016. They ended up going to lunch a few times and Martha had told Sophie all about him.

I'll let Sophie tell the next part:

I had a stressful day after senior semester [the USC broadcast journalism capstone course] where I was eating mac and cheese (as usual) and saw him rolling down the hill right in front of Russell House. I was sitting at the table by myself texting Martha to see if I should introduce myself and she said, "Of course!" 

And then I shook his hand... my hand on his left because he had his fork attached to his right hand lol. I now also know he usually uses the line, "I'm a hugger not a shaker," but was so excited to meet me because I was a "real woman" in front of him so he just shook my hand. 

I remember walking away all giddy and he was too. He then told Martha he met me and wanted us to all hang out, so I asked for his number! It took me a few days to have the courage to do it. I met him September 26th and didn't text him probably until the beginning of October. 

The week of Hurricane Matthew is where it all started! We talked for about 12 hours when we finally saw each other face to face again. I got to his apartment around 6pm and was there until 6pm the next day! I didn't even kiss him though. It was all just conversation! 

Overcoming Obstacles

I asked Sophie if they ever had a conversation about having a relationship despite Michal's disability and here's what she had to say:

My mum has asked me the very same question! The wheels are definitely NOT what made me fall in love with him. There's probably some kind of weird fetish for that.

Michal has a way of making you completely forget there's a 30 pound chair with him at all times. I was drawn to that quality. His ability to make you just see him.

Because I lived with Martha I was able to move on right past any boundary that could have been there. I already know how to put a wheelchair together and all that comes with it! So, I got to know him and made him feel comfortable. Like I said, we talked for 12 straight hours that first night! 

During that time seldom did the wheelchair come up. He talked to me about his favorite sports broadcaster, Clay Travis, and made fun of me for being a Jonas Brothers fan. We just clicked. I remember thinking during those first 12 hours that he was about to change my whole plan... if he would have me! We could have gone on a date and not hit it off, just like anyone else.

But I will say this. When I was a sophomore and Michal was a freshman we probably would not have gotten along. I didn't like to embrace being a normal college student. I had only ever kissed one person and was abnormally picky. I dropped Greek life and had never had a sip of alcohol!

I lived in fear of judgment. I wanted everyone to think I was perfect. Michal just kind of is perfect, so we would have clashed! 

As you know, I have now learned that it's okay to just live. I have become a much better person through the years, even during the last five months with Michal by my side. He brings out the fun in me and just lets me be who I am. I never have to be anyone else, which is something I have felt like I couldn't be in the past with men.

Michal is truly one of the most attractive men I have ever seen and one of the most sensitive, compassionate, giving and loving individuals. He just happens to be in a wheelchair too. His disability doesn't make him a different person. 

He still has the same witty humor, the same value system, and still loves Jack Daniels. 

He also wears this shirt that just did it for me. Completely sealed the deal and made me pursue the hell out of him. He owns a shirt that says, "I don't walk away from anything." 

He's so driven and so funny and incredibly special.

We had a conversation before about whether or not we would have found each other. Would we have a common connection without Martha? Maybe not. 

We just have to be thankful for how it happened. 

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