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How My Marriage Changed After a Stroke

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When my husband and I said, “I do” on November 2, 2001, we meant every word of our marriage vows. We repeated the words after the pastor with no doubt in our minds that we would spend forever together. When it got to the “for better or for worse” part of the vows, we said them with the better part sounding much easier than the worse. He was 27 and I was 22. We were at the young age where we felt like we were invincible and the worse part wouldn’t apply to us.

Fast forward 11 years and two kids later to 2012. We had land, a roof over our heads, jobs which gave us enough and a happy little family which provided us much joy. Life often got overwhelming with two young kids and busy days dropping them off at daycare, school and going to work, but we really couldn’t complain. Then, bam. June 6, 2012 happened. I had a major brain stem stroke and overnight 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 physical prognosis would be. Would I be 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 two children, so I gave him permission to leave me. He could find another woman who could give him everything when I might not be able to give him anything at all. With tears streaming down his face, he told me he wasn’t going anywhere. The “for worse” was here and he was stepping up to the plate.

For 12 weeks, I stayed in the hospital learning what I needed to help my speech get better and to walk again. He worked, took care of the kids and came to see me almost every day in the hospital. 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. It may not sound romantic, but I cherished those times with my husband.

The real work began when I came home. I had changed, not just physically, but emotionally as well, which many people don’t realize can be is one of the effects of a stroke. My personality changed. I had pseudobulbar affect due to the stroke affecting my brain stem. I’d cry or laugh 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 we ever had been.

It’s been seven years since the stroke. My kids are teenagers, full of hormones and attitude. My husband and I are ready to celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary. Things are still hard and our lives have been affected in ways we never would have imagined. But we’re working on it all daily and we’re in it for the long haul. The stroke made us work harder at our marriage, but I tell you, it’s worth it.

Originally published: October 21, 2019
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