A Louisiana man’s harrowing journey through sudden blindness, deafness and bacterial meningitis ended on a joyful note as his now-fiancé proposed, moments after his cochlear implant was turned on.
Some of the first words 37-year-old Hayward Duresseau heard after his stint with deafness was a sweet proposal from his boyfriend, Kerry Kennedy: “It’s been kind of a long journey to get to this point, but I’m glad we were able to do this together […] Will you marry me?"
Kennedy told InsideEdition.com they had been thinking about marriage for a while — even before Duresseau fell ill in February. But, “with the cochlear implant going in, I knew soon enough you’ll be able to hear. That’s when I wanted to do it. Once I knew you could hear, I wanted to propose."
Duresseau said, "I heard him speak. I saw the words come off of his mouth. It didn’t sound like his voice, but I was OK with that. It was amazing."
The couple, who have been together since 2015, explained it all started in February, when Duresseau returned from a trip to San Francisco the day before Valentine’s Day.
He woke up the following morning exhausted, and chalked it up to a tiring trip and jet lag. When he put his glasses on, he said he was still not seeing well, but thought his prescription changed.
Duresseau continued through the day with a headache, treating it with light painkillers, and even sat through a romantic Valentine’s dinner with Kennedy. They cut the night short when the lights began bothering him.
"I go to sleep and I wake up in the middle of the night, and all of a sudden, my head’s pounding," Duresseau recalled. He immediately tried to wake Kennedy, but fell to the other side of the bed, which he assumed was because he had a little too much wine at dinner.
The following morning, he felt his neck stiffen, and asked Kennedy to take him to the emergency room.
“That’s when the alarms started going off,” Duresseau recalled. “I can’t see. I can barely walk."
Doctors drilled into his eye when they noticed pressure and swelling, “but as soon as he does that, all of a sudden, poof, my hearing goes right out.”
Duresseau was eventually diagnosed with bacterial meningitis and spent the next several weeks in the hospital.
“I was calling out, but no one could hear me,” he said. “I couldn’t’ hear anybody around me. I didn’t know when they were going to start [medical procedures like spinal taps] so the anticipation just kept building and building.”
Kennedy added, “They weren’t sure he was going to survive. They kept talking to me in terms of, ‘Let’s make sure he’s comfortable. Let’s make sure he’s not in pain,' and that’s when I was thinking, 'Oh my god, he’s about to die.' It was pretty scary."
One morning, Duresseau’s vision suddenly returned, but doctors still had no information about whether his ability to hear would come back.
After months of physical therapy, Duresseau eventually decided to undergo surgery to receive a cochlear implant.
“I can stream music directly into my head, I can answer phone calls and it’s streamed directly into my head,” he said. “It’s amazing what you can do.”
The newly engaged couple said they now plan to take wedding planning slowly as they adjust to their new life.