After meningitis left him deaf for more than six months, the first thing Hayward Duresseau heard was the sound of his boyfriend proposing.
During a family trip to San Francisco in February, Hayward, 37, suddenly began to feel extremely fatigued – and just 48 hours later he was not able to see, hear or walk.
Exhibiting symptoms of undetected bacterial meningitis, Hayward was rushed to the hospital by his boyfriend, Kerry Kennedy, 27, where he stayed for the next three weeks.
While Hayward regained his sight after two weeks and the ability to walk after three months, he was told the damage to his hearing would likely be permanent – and struggled with the idea that he might never hear his partner’s voice again.
However, six months later, after being successfully fitted with a cochlear implant – an electronic device that restores function to the inner ear – the 37-year-old’s hearing returned, and that wasn’t the only surprise awaiting him.
The first thing Hayward heard in more than half a year was Kerry asking him: “Will you marry me?”
Replying with a tearful “yes”, the couple embraced before Hayward exclaimed: “I’m so happy to hear your voice.”
Hayward, who has been in a relationship with Kerry for three years, said: “On Valentine’s Day, I was walking down the stairs and thought it was strange that I couldn’t see through the lenses of my glasses.
“[The next day] I woke up unable to see anything, just big blobs of colour – by the time I got to the ER Kerry had to carry me because I could barely walk. My diagnosis was a hard one to accept. I was diagnosed with meningitis and I have no clue how I contracted it.
“The doctors gave me hope that my hearing might come back, but the more research I did the more I realised it was permanent. I fought long and hard to communicate with Kerry. It was extremely hard as I felt like such a burden.”
Caring for Hayward full-time as he recovers, Kerry said: “I didn’t have time to think about my reactions to the situation, Hayward needed my help and that’s all I could think about.
“Communication was difficult, but we had friends teaching us sign language, so we got by. I was thinking about proposing way before he got sick. He fell ill on Valentine’s Day and that night we spoke about getting married one day.”
Hayward, who is unemployed as he continues to undergo extensive treatment to restore his mobility, added: “Once I knew everything about the implants, I was so excited to talk to Kerry again.
“I thought of all the questions I would ask him just to hear his voice. I was completely shocked [by the proposal], I couldn’t hold back my emotions – my tears came from a joyful place.
“This whole issue has caused us to grow stronger in our relationship together.
Kerry said: “With the cochlear implant we were able to have full spoken conversations again. Hayward is my best friend and I love him with every part of me. We’re very excited for our future together.”