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BLACK LOVE: In Sickness and in Health
by Raquelle Harris
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October 13, 2018

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9 Minute Read

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BLACK LOVE: In Sickness and in Health

Inspired by watching the upcoming episode of BLACK LOVE on OWN entitled In Sickness and In Health, Raquelle Harris, married 16 years with 2 kids, describes her experience facing her husband’s stroke. This is her story.

 

The whole right side of my body is numb,” he said. It was a Monday. I was busy with work, kids, him, and I was in the midst of starting my career in media. I did not have time for any shenanigans. My husband’s statement didn’t fully register at first because my thoughts and emotions were on ten. We were experiencing financial strain and it was affecting our marriage.

Hindsight is a tricky thing, it’s almost torturous when you reflect on your past actions and realize what you could and should have done differently. After asking him a few more questions, we attributed the numbness to him sleeping in an awkward position during his nap. Yet, when I arrived home several hours later, he said he still felt numb on his entire right side. That’s when I got nervous and suggested he go to the emergency room. He was scheduled to start school for graphic design the next day, so he didn’t want to go to the hospital.

Raquelle & Husband Ben Harris

The next day, he went to school, came home and said he was feeling a little better, but   suspected that he may have suffered a stroke. I dismissed this theory because he was only forty years old, with no history of major health issues. I was in denial and anxious about more financial woes, if he couldn’t work. The next morning, he awoke and stated the numbness was still there. And in that moment, the atmosphere shifted.

Emergency room doctors confirmed that my husband had, indeed, suffered a stroke. There are two types of strokes – Ischemic (lack of blood flow to the brain) and Hemorrhagic (bleeding in the brain). Ben’s stroke was the worse of the two, hemorrhagic. 

Because we waited two days past the onset of his symptoms to seek treatment, his brain was aggravated by the blood, causing him to suffer a mild seizure while we were in the emergency room.  

To this day, the sensation on the right side of his body is not fully restored. Occasionally he trips due to issues with his right foot, must be mindful while driving and when he walks up and down stairs. Fortunately, his right hand was not as affected and his face doesn’t droop on one side like many stroke survivors.

Raquelle & Husband Ben Harris

No married couple can fathom the magnitude of “for better and for worse, in sickness and in health,” until they experience just that. Black Love’s episode entitled  “In Sickness and In Health,” set off a series of emotions for me. Anger. Confusion. Guilt. Shame. Relief. Peace.

As Grant Hill revealed about his and Tamia’s challenges in the upcoming episode of BLACK LOVE, “Literally, our vows were tested.”  Many people know about Tamia’s multiple sclerosis diagnosis, but before then, Grant went through several years of career-deterring ankle surgeries as a professional basketball player. Like Tamia, I am a busy wife, mother and career woman, so it was jarring for me to shift my priorities to facilitate and monitor my husband’s recovery. Every aspect of our lives was affected. It was one of the worst valleys in our marriage.

Per Michigan law, he couldn’t drive for six months following the stroke due to his seizure. Because he was working as an Uber driver at the time, he didn’t qualify for unemployment income and I was the sole breadwinner for over six months. You can imagine the increased financial strain on our household.  Both of our cars were repossessed and we were forced to file for bankruptcy. During those months, I learned how to make the best of our circumstance and be grateful for even less than what we had before.

Also, introduced in the BLACK LOVE episode “In Sickness and In Health” was Shannon & Bechir, a couple dealing with a colon cancer diagnosis. While watching, I felt the emotional paralysis Bechir described while caring for his wife, Shannon, through the experience. Many days, I existed on autopilot, trying to maintain work and our household, while reassuring our two young children that daddy was okay. Countless nights, I cried and prayed, devastated at the thought of him dying and leaving our family without his loving and protective presence. His neurosurgeon was meticulous, but my nerves were frayed. I lost weight from not eating as much, which was different for me because I’m an emotional eater.

Fortunately, our awesome village of family and friends stepped in to close the gaps. They surrounded us with tangible and intangible support by assisting with transportation, giving us money, sharing their resources, prayers, and frequent calls and texts of encouragement.  

I share Bechir’s passionate sentiment about Shannon: “It was joyful in a sense because I got a second chance to love my wife. …I have to love her more!” he said. Within a year, our test became our testimony as Ben had surgery on his brain—while conscious! He attended countless doctor and physical therapy appointments and finished school. Ben showed our children the true meaning of perseverance. I remember during his hospitalization for a procedure, he asked me to bring his books and laptop, so he could complete his homework. I was, and still am in awe of his resilience. My love and respect for him grew exponentially during that time.

Raquelle & Husband Ben Harris

Four years later, my hubby is not a hundred percent how he was prior to his stroke, but he is walking, talking, working and most of all living. In just a little under a year, he resumed his normal daily activities. If you didn’t know our story, you wouldn’t suspect from looking at him the physical, mental and emotional trials he endured.  His illness taught us the true meaning of sacrifice. It also taught me to appreciate any and every moment we share. Any anger towards my hubby dissolves quicker now because I don’t want to waste any more time.

Second chances are priceless! I’m immensely grateful I still get to be the Florida to his James, the Jada to his Will. It’s only right because during my lowest points, he is my caregiver, my soother, my confidence booster and my hero.

Traumatic events seem to happen when we’re on the cusp of achievements. Tamia and Grant Hill were at the top of their respective careers. They’re now able to recall their struggles with humor. “Tears turn to laughter,” she said.

My hubby and I were pursuing our respective dreams when his stroke happened. My only regret is that God had to shake us up in order to slow us down and make us pay attention. We now focus more on living our lives with passionate purpose, as we thrive through the storms, waiting for the sun to shine again.

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