A Victoria woman plans to say I do again for what will feel like the first time, after a head injury caused her to lose all memory of her husband.
Laura Hart Faganello will marry Brayden Faganello on their anniversary, July 15, 2020, four years after a wedding day she can’t remember.
“I’ve learned that love is a choice, and I am choosing to love Brayden,” said Hart Faganello. “On Aug. 19, he proposed to me, again, and I said yes, again.”
Hart Faganello, 23, was setting up a business event on April 27, 2017, in Langford when a pole fell on her head and she suffered a traumatic brain injury, she said.
Her husband, Brayden Faganello, 25, says after the accident, she lost her sense of humour and her “light.” “She was always down and sad” and in constant pain and sick, he said.
Hart Faganello’s father, Rob Hart, says his articulate, accomplished and confident daughter struggled to read and write. She was in her third year at the University of Victoria and had to drop out. “The way she put her words together, the way she hesitated … She’s been in some ways reduced to survival mode. It’s been very difficult.”
As the symptoms worsened, she would forget why and when she married Brayden Faganello just nine months earlier. Together they had a wedding photography business.
She regularly woke up thinking it was three years earlier, when she was 17 and living in Belgium, where her father — a lieutenant-colonel now with the United Nations Command in South Korea — was then stationed.
She cringed when her husband, a virtual stranger, hugged her. She forgot the sense of humour that attracted her to him.
The two had met as penpals while she was in Brussels and he was in South Africa, and almost a year later met in person in Victoria.
But their whirlwind romance came to an abrupt stop nine months after they said: “I do.”
“I felt completely trapped in the life I was living,” said Hart Faganello. The couple was living in a basement suite in Gordon Head. Living separately wasn’t financially possible, so they became roommates with an imaginary line in their bed.
Faganello tried to carry on a normal life, but he says each day was like the moment someone breaks up with you.
“It was absolutely heartbreaking, especially as we were still so newly wed,” he said. “It shredded me to bits having that total broken heart.”
He lived in that suspended state for almost two years.
“Any feelings weren’t being reciprocated,” Faganello said. “She was cold and distant.”
While he admits “a lot of people might assess the situation and bail,” Faganello said he had made a commitment to Laura for life and believed they could make it work.
“I had this feeling that things would be OK as long as I tried to understand her and if I could just keep working at it and loving her,” he said.
“It taught me a lot of patience. I took it day by day and didn’t try to look too far in the future. I went from being a stranger to a buddy, and we slowly transitioned that way. If I saw her smiling one day, that was a big win. I was always looking for small wins and accomplishments that could push a little bit of hope into the next day.”
For her part, Hart Faganello said she made a choice to see his good qualities and care for him the way he was caring for her. If she couldn’t remember their love, she could recreate it. “One day I was sick of being a victim, sick of being depressed, sick of resenting him.
“Eventually, I got out of bed and put my all into my relationship.”
She recognized how patient he had been, how he never complained, while he recognized that no matter how hard it was for him, it must be worse for her. That appreciation grew into a real fondness.
The two began “dating” and their love grew.
On Aug. 19, Brayden took Laura to three locations that were significant in their relationship. At each site, he read a letter that detailed a chapter in their relationship. The last was Goldstream Heights, where they had their first date.
“I’ve learned love is not something you get once and you can just bank on it,” said Faganello. “It’s something you need to persist at and work at every day. I chose to work at it and she chose to love me again. Love is a choice, but it needs to be nurtured.”
Hart and his wife Victoria Hart plan to return to Victoria for the wedding. “It’s something that will be very poignant,” said Victoria Hart, from South Korea. “It rings very true to us that this is what needs to happen. It’s a story of commitment and unwavering support on Brayden’s part and strength on Laura’s part.”
“The most powerful words we have in our vocabulary are ‘I choose,’ ” said Rob Hart. “Laura has chosen to re-engage with Brayden, chosen to move forward and not let her disabilities dominate her life and I think that’s a powerful message — that no matter our circumstances, we can decide to choose a brighter path, even if it’s fraught with difficulties.”