For Hayward Duresseau, a "terrifying" diagnosis ended in one of the happiest moments of his life. The 27-year-old had just visited San Francisco with boyfriend Kerry Kennedy in February when he grew exhausted, lost some vision, got a killer headache, and fell violently ill—which landed him in an emergency room in their hometown of Lafayette, Louisiana, reports NBC News. His eye problem soon developed into hearing loss and a new diagnosis: bacterial meningococcal meningitis, a possibly fatal infection that WebMD says inflames membranes covering the spinal cord and brain. An outbreak had just struck San Francisco, spreading by prolonged contact with a carrier via kissing or shared food or water, per Buzzfeed.
"When he was first diagnosed, it was terrifying," Kennedy said. "I was really scared. I wasn't sure if he was ever going to leave the hospital." But Kennedy, 37, stayed by Duresseau's side for his three weeks in hospital and six months of recovery. Paralyzed from the hips down, Duresseau did regain mobility and sight but lost all hearing—so the couple learned American Sign Language together, reports People. When a cochlear implant allowed him to hear again, the first thing he heard was Kennedy's marriage proposal: Down on one knee, Kennedy asked, "Will you marry me?" Amid tears and laughter, Duresseau said one word: "Yes." See the video on Kennedy's Facebook page, where he writes, "These have been some of the most challenging months of our lives, but we made it together." (Read more meningitis stories.)