Marriage After Stroke
When we said, “I do” on Nov. 2, 2001, my husband and I meant every word of our marriage vows. We repeated them with no doubt we’d spend forever together. We said, “for better or for worse” with the “better” part sounding much easier than the “worse.” He was 27 and I was 22 — young enough to know we were invincible and that the “worse” part wouldn’t apply to us.
Fast forward to 2012, 11 years and two kids later. We had land, a roof over our heads, jobs that gave us enough and a happy little family providing much joy. Life often got overwhelming with two young kids. Days were busy, dropping them off at daycare and school and going to work, but we really couldn’t complain.
Then, BAM. On June 6, 2012, I had a major brain stem stroke. Suddenly I wasn’t able to walk or talk. The world as we knew it crumbled and we didn’t know if it would ever be the same again.
After some time in the ICU and speech therapy, I was able to say short, simple sentences. We had no idea what my prognosis would be. Would I be wheelchair-bound for the rest of my life, dependent on my husband for every little thing? I had nightmares of him leaving me in a nursing home and never seeing him again. I didn’t want to be a burden on him or my children, so I gave him permission to leave. He could find another woman who could give him everything when I might not be able to give him anything at all.
Survivor Delanie Stephenson and her husband Curtis on their wedding day in 2001 (top), and today
For 12 weeks, I stayed in the hospital learning to improve my speech and to walk again. My husband worked, took care of the kids and came to see me in the hospital almost every day. I know he was exhausted, overwhelmed and scared. He never showed it. We’d have date nights on Wednesdays where he would be the one to give me a bath. May not sound romantic, but I cherished those times with my husband.
The real work began when I came home. I had changed — physically and emotionally. My personality changed. I had pseudobulbar affect due to the stroke affecting my brain stem, crying or laughing at the drop of a hat. My temper was super short and I had intense anxiety.
Cognitively, I wasn’t as sharp as I once was. There were many frustrating moments dealing with the kids. Life was not a piece of cake and we had our share of challenges. But because we loved each other, we never gave up. We worked hard and communicated better than we did before the stroke. We were closer than ever.
It’s been seven years since the stroke. My kids are teenagers, full of hormones and attitudes. My husband and I are ready to celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary. Things are still hard. Our lives have been affected in ways we never would have imagined. But we’re working on it daily and we’re in it for the long haul. The stroke made us work harder at our marriage, and it’s worth it.