It can be said that a person’s true character is revealed during difficult times. How people respond to a crisis is very telling. For the couple in the following story, a medical diagnosis wound up testing their relationship like it had never been tested before.
While they couldn’t have imaged they’d be prepared to overcome something like this, they wound up coming out of the situation even stronger. After six months of barely being able to communicate, finally, their story had a happy ending.
Trip to San Fran
In early 2018, Kerry, 37, and his boyfriend Hayward, 27, went on a trip to San Francisco to visit family. The couple thought they would have a relaxing vacation, and while it was fun, upon returning home, Hayward felt “off.”
On their first night home, the pair had been drinking wine, so Kerry figured that Hayward wasn’t feeling well due to excessive drinking or dehydration. But as his condition worsened, he developed a headache and a strange sensitivity to light and migraine medication wouldn’t work.
Hayward recalled seeing something about a meningitis outbreak on the news prior to their trip, but he wasn’t familiar with the disease. “We didn’t know anything about it, so we ignored it,” Hayward told BuzzFeed.
Bacterial meningococcal meningitis is a widespread infection that results in inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. The bacteria is contracted by prolonged contact with a carrier and saliva transfer, through sharing food, water, or kissing. It was shortly after that Hayward learned he had contracted bacterial meningitis during their trip.
The infection can be fatal, even if it is detected quickly. While a vaccine does exist, multiple college campuses have reported outbreaks of meningitis B in the last few years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), meningococcal outbreaks are still very rare in the U.S., with fewer than 300 cases reported per year.
CDC says that about 1 in 10 people have these bacteria in the back of their nose and throat with no signs or symptoms of the disease. This is called ‘being a carrier,’ but sometimes the bacteria can invade the body and cause certain illnesses which are known as meningococcal disease.
While it’s uncertain how Hayward contracted the disease, it could have been contracted from anyone he lived with and shared close quarters with. It’s more likely, however, that the disease is contracted by being in direct contact with an infected patient’s oral secretions, more commonly, in the case of boyfriend or girlfriend.
Hayward wound up being rushed to the hospital, where he spent the next three weeks. As his condition declined rapidly, Hayward lost his vision and he became paralyzed from the hips down. While in the hospital, he worked to fully recover his sight and mobility, with Kerry right by his side.
“In a relationship, communication is key. We were left without communication for about six months,” Kerry said. Those six months were difficult for the couple, who had already been dating for over three years. Hayward described his health condition as feeling like he was “in jail” in his own head.
Learning to Communicate
“I could see everything that was going on – I could communicate, but the world wouldn’t communicate back with me,” he said. The couple decided they had to quickly learn as much American Sign Language (ASL) as possible so that they could communicate effectively. “He would place the ‘I love you’ sign on my leg or on my back, and that’s when I knew I could go to sleep,” Hayward recalled.
The Good News
Finally, after months of being unable to hear, there was some light at the end of the tunnel when Hayward learned he was approved to receive a Cochlear implant. According to their website, a cochlear implant is an electronic medical device that does the work of damaged parts of the inner ear (cochlea) to provide sound signals to the brain.
A cochlear implant replaces the function of the damaged inner ear. But, unlike hearing aids, which make sounds louder, cochlear implants do the work of damaged parts of the inner ear (cochlea) to provide sound signals to the brain. The benefits of a cochlear implant are that adults can hear better than with a hearing aid, focus better when in noisy environments, talk and hear on the phone and enjoy music.
Hayward was excited because the statistics were good so he went for it and received the surgery. Following the surgery, there is a period of recovery time before the device is actually turned on and Kerry felt it was the perfect time to plan a proposal. Before making his plan a reality, Kerry spoke with the audiologist for approval.
Setting Up The Proposal
Once he agreed, Kerry dreamed up his perfect proposal. “We had talked a little bit about getting married – well, signed about it, at least,” Kerry said. “I wanted the first thing that I said to him to be asking for his hand.” After gathering some close friends and family, Kerry was ready to surprise Hayward.
The beautiful proposal was captured on video and Hayward said he was in shock. “I’m hearing all these click sounds, I’m hearing my brother speak, and I can hear Kerry, and the first thing that comes out of his mouth – it’s this big spiel about what we’ve been through and he’s down on one knee.”
Kerry shared the video on Facebook and wrote a heartfelt post about the magical day. “It’s been six months since you lost your hearing to meningitis,” he wrote. “These have been some of the most challenging months of our lives, but we made it together. Today your cochlear implant was turned on for the first time.”
“For the first time in 6 months, you were able to hear me, and I knew exactly what I wanted to ask you. When you said ‘Yes’ today, that made all the challenges worth it. I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you. I love you Hayward Duresseau,” Kerry wrote. He explained how the experience gave him a newfound love of life.
New Appreciation For Life
“I’ll stop and smell the roses, so to speak,” he said. While going through an experience like this can be taxing on a couple, Kerry and Hayward didn’t crumble under the pressure. In fact, they believe the experience made their relationship even stronger than before. “Before, I knew he loved me, but how? It’s surreal,” Hayward said.
Following the procedure and proposal, the couple has been committed to learning American Sign Language, even though Hayward already has the cochlear implant. They want to make sure that they have to go without communication again.
“The deaf community rallied behind us and helped us a lot to get through that six-month period,” Kerry said. While a wedding is not set in stone yet, the couple hopes to plan their big day around Mardi Gras in 2019. That date is special to them since their first date was around that time.