Real Michiana: Pushing through the pain
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- A week after a bill passed in Dr. Todd Graham's name, and a few days after what would have been his 58th birthday, his widow, Julie Graham, shares how she's pushing through the pain to make a difference.
Julie was unwittingly thrust into the spotlight on July 26, 2017, when her husband was murdered outside of his office.
“You just can’t believe it. You see these things on the news, and you think it’ll never happen to me or my family, and there it is unfolding and happening, and I was hyperventilating, I was screaming, and it was just horrific," she said.
A patient's husband shot and killed Dr. Graham, because he wouldn't prescribe his wife opioids for pain.
"It’s wrong. It’s absolutely wrong. I mean he was never one of those doctors that would just prescribe those pain pills and push people at the door. He wanted to get down to what really caused the pain, and help them, so it’s just sickening," said Mrs. Graham.
Since that moment, she's been taking life hour by hour, day by day.
"You know I had to live in that pain for a long long time and just work through that grief and try to put the pieces of my life back together and the pieces of our families’ lives back together, and I’m still obviously doing that, but... you find out that when you start putting those pieces of the puzzle back together, you’re not quite the same, you’re different. And, I wouldn't say different in a bad way. I’m definitely more compassionate. I’m aware, and I want to be more involved...and I want to make a difference," she said.
She says she hopes to become a resource for other people that are going through grief after a loved one was taken away through violence.
Julie also plans to involve herself more in gun control issues, mental health issues, workplace violence...
"So it is kind of overwhelming for myself and my family to where do you start and what really is that you’re going to have the most impact on, so we’re still working on it, but...obviously got a great start with this bill being passed...the Todd Graham Pain Management and Improvement Act. It provides research and alternatives for non-opioid based pain management, which obviously is what, Todd was practicing that for 30 years," said Mrs. Graham.
Julie's own pain management comes in the form of endorphins.
“I’m teaching fitness classes, which I absolutely adore. I used to dance professionally when I was a kid, so it’s a group of ladies that I’ve worked out with for years and years and years, and they’re just stunning women and have been so supportive of me...and that’s just been a really fun way for me to give back to those ladies," she said.
She says it also helps to think back on all the memories from the incredible trips she and her husband took.
"He never put anything off if he wanted to do it , we did it, so we traveled a lot...so I’m really glad he had that mindset, because obviously you never know," said Mrs. Graham.
She does know that she has to get up every day, let herself grieve, and keep going.
"South Bend is still my home, and the support in the community has been so spectacular that I feel comfortable here, and I want to be here, so I’m trying to find that balance. That’s something that I’m currently working on, but I’m sure I can, so I have no choice. I have to make it work," Julie said, laughing.