Triumph over trauma


November 29, 1998|By Joanne E. Morvay | Joanne E. Morvay,SPECIAL TO THE SUN


In October 1997, just a month after Laurie Tice and Doug Wagerman started dating, Doug was in a terrible car accident. He spent eight days at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center with multiple injuries. Rehabilitation kept the Baltimore City firefighter off work for five months.

It was not an auspicious beginning for a relationship that had already offered its share of baggage, the couple say.

Laurie and Doug first became acquainted in August 1996 when they were among the participants on a large scuba-diving trip to the Caribbean, sponsored by an area dive shop.

When they began dating more than a year later, Doug was getting divorced after 14 years of marriage. Laurie was in a constant quandary about her longtime relationship with another man who wasn't ready to marry - even though she was.

Then there was the difference in Laurie and Doug's ages. He was 35. When he asked Laurie out, he thought she was "26 or 27." She was 22.

The 13 years between them "made me very uncomfortable," Doug says. But since it hadn't mattered to him before he found out, Doug says he didn't think it was fair to hold it against Laurie once he knew.

Their first date - an afternoon of horseback riding - went so well it led to dinner. That led to more dates. And just a few days before his car accident, Doug introduced Laurie to his parents and other family members.

Laurie was waiting for Doug to pick her up after work when one of his fellow firefighters told her about the accident. Though she works coordinating educational programs for the University of Maryland Medical Center, Laurie had a phobia about hospitals ++ and rarely entered the medical side of the facility. But she mustered up her courage to be with Doug.

She was relieved to find that he was conscious. "It was so reassuring just to be in the room with him," Laurie remembers. "When he started talking and joking around, I knew Doug was there. Despite everything that was broken and everything that was bleeding and everything that needed to be fixed, Doug was there."

Both Laurie and Doug agree that the accident quickly accelerated the pace of their relationship. With Doug having come so close to death, he and Laurie were soon talking about marriage.

But by Christmas - just two months after the accident - Laurie and Doug both needed some space. A short breakup gave them time to deal with all the changes in their lives, including the growing depth of their feelings for each other. They also needed to address the possibility that Doug might not want to have any more children; he already had a son and a daughter from his first marriage.

fTC After much soul-searching and some long discussions about these issues and others, Laurie and Doug were reunited on New Year's Day. On Valentine's Day, Doug presented Laurie with pearl earrings and pledged his heart to her. They moved in together soon after.

In June, Doug surprised Laurie by proposing at the scuba-diving shop they both had patronized even before they met.

On Nov. 14, Laurie and Doug were married at Ebenezer United Methodist Church in Chase. Doug's 9-year-old son, Devin, was an usher and his 15-year-old daughter, Dena, was a bridesmaid.

During the ceremony, Laurie tenderly wiped a tear from Doug's eye. And as the couple pledged to love one another in sickness and in health, their parents - Pamela and Barry Tice of Perry Hall and Madeline and Charles Wagerman Sr. of Dundalk - couldn't help but recall Doug's accident and the trauma the couple had already endured.

Laurie's mother says she finds the couple's love story inspirational. "They had all of these things that could have prevented them from getting to their wedding day, but nothing stopped them," Pam Tice says.

"I think we've proven we can weather good times and bad," Laurie agrees.

Pub Date: 11/29/98

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