A trip to San Francisco earlier this year changed the lives of Kerry and his boyfriend Heyward after Heyward contracted bacterial meningitis on the visit. He developed a headache and sensitivity to light and then his condition rapidly declined, eventually he lost his vision and was paralyzed.
Eventually Heyward recovered after a three-week hospital stay, but he lost his hearing permanently. And the couple spent about six months not being able to communicate well because Heyward couldn’t hear. They both learned sign language, which gave them the chance to communicate again.
Heyward was recently approved to get a cochlear implant, a device that replaces damaged inner ear function. And when the device was first turned on, Kerry had the perfect first words for his boyfriend to hear: he asked him to marry him. It’s been a difficult year, but they say now their relationship is even stronger. Heyward says, “Before, I knew he loved me, but now? It’s surreal. He’s there.”