Real Life

This couple faced the biggest challenge before their big day. Then a miracle happened.

Weeks before our wedding, disaster struck
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Jess Amato-Ali, 24, from the Sunshine Coast, Qld, shares her story with Take 5’s Theo Rule:

Grabbing my keys before I headed to the shops, I had a thought: Maybe Kerese wants to come, too?

Turning back to the bedroom, I found my fiancé still dozing in bed.

Kerese, 29, worked as a night guard and kept long hours, but I could see his eyes were open.

“I’m going to the shops,” I began. “Join me?”

When he didn’t reply, I asked again.

No response.

Jess with Kerese (Image: supplied)

Fear gripped me as I slowly sat him up and he remained silent.

I called triple 0 and waited 20 agonising minutes before an ambulance arrived.

By now, Kerese was gasping for air and was quickly raced to hospital.

Due to COVID restrictions, I had to travel separately and went with my mum, Simone, as I was too distraught to drive.

Trailing behind the ambulance, I watched in fright as it pulled over suddenly and Kerese was taken out.

“What’s going on?” I cried.

With Kerese in hospital (Image: supplied)

“His condition’s getting worse,” the paramedic explained. “We’ve called a chopper to fly him to hospital in Brisbane.”

It took Mum and I an hour-and-a-half to drive there and when we arrived, we learned Kerese had been taken to the ICU.

“Come this way,” a social worker said, leading us into a room where a group of doctors were waiting.

“I’m afraid your fiancé has suffered a stroke,” one said.

I burst into tears.

Kerese was young and healthy, always working out at the gym. A stroke shouldn’t have happened to him.

But when I asked a doctor why, he shrugged and replied: “It’s just bad luck.”

Kerese was young and healthy (Image: supplied)

I was in complete shock.

“But we’re getting married next month,” I said. “Is he going to make it?”

Doctors couldn’t give us an answer, but Mum was a great comfort to me.

“Don’t lose hope, Jess,” she whispered. “Just because doctors don’t know doesn’t mean it’s all over.”

Looking down at my fiancé, I was overcome with grief.

I thought about our first date in 2017. Kerese had turned up at my door, a bunch of roses in his hand, smiling.

We hit it off so well that after two weeks, he asked me to move in with him!

I knew it was sudden, but I was so smitten with this kind, caring man that I said yes immediately.

Jess never left Kerese’s side in hospital (Image: supplied)

Now, just over a month away from our wedding, I wasn’t even sure if he’d pull through.

Over the next few days, Kerese drifted in and out of consciousness.

Doctors asked him questions and gave mild electric shocks but he still wasn’t responding.

Four days after his stroke, he turned 30 and hadn’t said a word.

“Do you want to try?” a doctor asked me.

I took his right hand and looked deep into his eyes.

“Kerese, baby, if you can hear me, squeeze my hand,” I urged.

Suddenly, I felt a pressure in my fingers.

He could hear me!

Kerese was determined to recover (Image: supplied)

From that moment on, he slowly began to improve by making sounds and small movements.

Just over a week later he was moved into rehab at a local hospital where he had to learn to walk and talk again.

“Do you remember what day we’re getting married?” I asked.

“May 14th,” he responded confidently.

Our wedding was scheduled for April but I wasn’t complaining – at least he was speaking.

To give him something to focus on, I kept reminding him about our wedding and after weeks, he was up and walking again.

“Now we’ve got to get you dancing,” I said.

The wedding went ahead after all (Photo by Daisy&theDuke)

I placed headphones in his ears and played Dressed Up In White, by Cal, which we’d chosen as our wedding song.

Within seconds of hearing the music, tears began streaming down Kerese’s face – I could tell the memories were flooding back.

Over the next couple of weeks, we slowly practised dancing to our song in the hospital ward.

Hearing the lyrics: “I’m gunna love you for the rest of my life” had now taken on a whole new meaning for both of us.

One day, while dancing, Kerese pulled me in close.

“Jess, I love you always and forever,” he whispered.

Jess got a special tattoo (Image: supplied)

Those dances played such a positive part in his recovery that, four weeks after the stroke, Kerese passed his cognition test, meaning he was able to be discharged.

By now, our big day was just two weeks away, so we’d been cutting it fine.

“I knew you’d make it!” I said, hugging him tight.

In April this year, we married in the countryside outside Yandina, Qld.

With his speech still developing, Kerese asked me to deliver a speech on his behalf.

Looking at the piece of paper, I saw he’d written Reasons I love you.

His fourth point was You are the reason I live, which I read aloud to our guests.

And it’s true.

We are each other’s best friend and our life together is now brighter than ever.

Kerese is preparing to go back to work, and I recently had his words from the hospital: “I love you always and forever” tattooed on my arms – a constant reminder that love always wins.

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