Hayward contracted bacterial meningococcal meningitis when he and his boyfriend, 37 year-old Kerry, vacationed together in San Francisco earlier this year. As a result, he tragically lost his hearing.
When Hayward developed a severe headache along with a sensitivity to light, Kerry thought it was due to dehydration because they had been drinking wine that night. When his symptoms worsened, the couple rushed to the hospital, where Hayward would end up staying for three weeks.
As his condition rapidly declined, he temporarily lost his sight, became paralyzed from the waist down, and lost his hearing. Although Hayward eventually regained his sight and feeling below his waist, he completely lost his hearing.
Hayward becoming deaf left the couple heart-broken, and their ability to communicate with each other became limited.
“In a relationship, communication is key, you know? We were left without communication for about six months,” Kerry explained to BuzzFeed News.
Hayward described the ordeal as “being in jail” in his own head. “I could see everything that was going on. I could communicate, but the world couldn’t communicate back with me,” Hayward said.
Luckily, after a difficult six months for the couple, Hayward was approved to receive a cochlear implant, which is a device that replaces the function of the inner ear, which would allow the couple to communicate fully again.
Hayward required surgery before the device could be turned on, followed by a month long recovery period. This gave his boyfriend time to plan the perfect surprise – a proposal!
“We had talked a little bit about getting married — well, signed about it, at least. I wanted the first thing that I said to him to be asking for his hand,” Kerry told Buzzfeed News.
So Kerry planned it all out and gathered Hayward’s close friends and family for the big moment.
The first thing that Hayward heard when the cochlear implant was turned on was Kerry asking him to marry him.
Hayward said he was “in shock” at the proposal.
“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,” Hayward said.
A video of the touching moment has since gone viral, and the couple has even been stopped and congratulated by strangers in public.
The couple also praised the deaf community, saying that they “rallied behind” them during their difficult few months, and even though the cochlear implant restored Hayward’s hearing, they are committed to learning ASL (American Sign Language).
While there are no plans put in place, the couple is hoping to have their wedding around Mardi Gras in 2019, as this was where they had their first date.
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