The Long Train of Pain

When Mike Rinder permanently disabled his wife, he permanently disabled any last trace of his decency

Cathy Bernardini with daughter Taryn Teutsch, 2011
Cathy Bernardini with daughter Taryn Teutsch, 2011

In the aftershock of Mike Rinder’s assault on his then wife, Cathy, in April 2010, little did Cathy know that life as she knew it would change—forever—and painfully so.

The obvious injuries on the petite woman were a three-inch bloody gouge and abrasion on her right forearm and bruising on both limbs where Mike had pinned her in his vise grip.

After returning home to Southern California, Cathy still suffered swelling and pain in her right arm two weeks after the assault and sought treatment from a specialist in Beverly Hills.

“The laceration on the right upper extremity, which is consistent with the domestic violence injury, is still readily apparent.”

— Medical Evaluation, May 6, 2010

“The patient’s injury is consistent with her description of the etiology [cause of the injury],” reads the medical evaluation of May 6. “The laceration on the right upper extremity, which is consistent with the domestic violence injury, is still readily apparent.”

Cathy was treated for the flesh wound and cellulitis. The wound healed, but she continued to have constant, worsening pain and severely limited mobility in her right arm. In May, an orthopedic surgeon in Palm Springs conducted a series of examinations and prescribed a course of physical therapy. When Cathy’s condition did not improve, he ordered an MRI. The source of Cathy’s constant pain was isolated in her right shoulder, which had been mangled from the severe stress of Rinder’s force on her arms during his assault.

“My collarbone had been dislocated and a bone in my shoulder was fractured and it jammed into the top of my arm bone,” Cathy explained in layman’s terms. “So literally I couldn’t move at all.”

Cathy Bernardini’s lacerated forearm
Cathy Rinder shoulder damage
A lacerated forearm was the immediate visible result of Mike Rinder’s April 23, 2010, assault on his wife; an MRI months later revealed the shoulder injury from his assault as the source of her permanent nerve damage and pain.

In June 2011, Cathy underwent surgery to decompress the shoulder and repair the damaged joint at the end of the collarbone. After the surgery, her surgeon had her follow an extensive course of physical therapy.

“When I first walked in to the physical therapist, nothing in my arm moved at all,” Cathy said. “It was over a year before I could even bend my elbow. And I remember the day I could move my wrist finally and I was ecstatic. And so was the physical therapist. And then months later, my God, I could move my elbow.”

In January 2015, after more than 40 treatments with one of her therapists, the practitioner recorded improvements while concluding: “The right arm is limited [in] its movement and does not function normally. She has 65 percent mobility in this arm.”

A month later, Cathy’s surgeon concluded: “At this point, being five years out, it’s a permanent disability that will always be there with her.”

Cathy continued physical therapy to no avail. The pain and the disability is always there with her.

What Mike Rinder did not disable, however, is Cathy’s will to lead a productive life—though it has required accommodations. Simple things are no longer simple. A natural right-hander, she developed a complex array of coping skills.

“I had to teach myself and train my left hand, to one degree or another, to do certain things,” she said. “I had to figure out how to brush my teeth with my left hand. I have to eat with my left hand as well.”

In her work as an editor, “I cannot put my arm up on a desk and leave it there,” she said, “because it doesn’t go that high before I feel it, like really badly.”

She has made do with the pain and lack of mobility: she switched to a left-handed mouse, uses the keyboard at the level of her lap, and taught herself to type predominantly with her left hand. She made changes down to a specially padded ergonomic stapler, as the jolt of stapling, even with the left hand, sends a vibration up the bones that triggers pain.

For taking routine notes on her job, she explained, “I have a clipboard system. Every office I go to, I have a clipboard and [use] it right on my lap.”

She says she has a new appreciation of what it meant to have full mobility and pain-free use of her arm before the assault.

“I can’t tie my shoes,” she said. “All my shoes are slip-on and that’s how I deal with that.”

As she can’t manage buttons, or maneuver close-fitting clothing over her head, Cathy’s wardrobe contains many loose-fitting items and an assortment of garments with resourceful alterations—including button-down shirts converted into pullovers with hidden zippers.

Opening doors can be difficult, depending on the hardware; opening bottles is impossible. Cutting certain food requires assistance. A friend, or her daughter, helps with her laundry.

Circulation blocks and swelling require daily ice and heat packs to force blood flow and alleviate the worst of the constant pain.

“So I’m coping day to day,” Cathy said, concluding that it has been “just a long train of pain.”

As for Mike Rinder’s train through those days, months and years since he assaulted his wife?

Four days after the violence, in April 2010, he gave his first evaluation of the incident to a newspaper reporter: “Rinder said he has no idea how Cathy Rinder was injured,” read the story.

By 2017, Rinder had an idea: “[Cathy] sustained a graze on her arm, apparently from when she was trying to prevent me from getting into the car and closing the door,” he posted.

While Mike Rinder gropes for his story—since the day he claimed he had “no idea” how his wife was injured—Cathy’s memory of that painful day has never changed.

One year later, in 2018, Rinder’s idea changed. His wife’s injuries, he now said, were caused as “a result of incidental contact as I was trying to walk away.”

In early 2021, Rinder’s idea changed yet again, this time offering that Cathy “tore the ligaments in her shoulder while she was lifting boulders.”

Mike Rinder gropes for his story—since the day he claimed he had “no idea” how his wife was injured. Cathy’s memory of that painful day has never changed. Cathy and those who have witnessed her long train of pain have no idea how Mike Rinder sleeps at night.