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When Man Regained Hearing, His Boyfriend Proposed

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From left: Kerry Kennedy and Hayward Duresseau

The first thing Hayward Duresseau heard was "Will you marry me?"

Boyfriends Kerry Kennedy and Hayward Duresseau were on a trip to San Francisco in February when Duresseau contracted bacterial meningitis. He was hospitalized for three weeks back home in Louisiana, where the life-threatening illness took his vision, paralyzed him below the belt, and left him deaf.

While Duresseau, 27, recovered his vision and movement in the hospital, his hearing was damaged permanently. Kennedy, 37, learned as much sign language as possible so they could communicate.

"In a relationship, communication is key, you know? We were left without communication for about six months," Kennedy, who had been dating Duresseau for three years, told BuzzFeed News.

"I could see everything that was going on -- I could communicate, but the world couldn't communicate back with me," Duresseau told BuzzFeed News. He remembers his illness as "'being in jail" inside his mind. However, he said Kennedy's efforts to learn American Sign Language helped him heal. "He would place the 'I love you' sign on my leg or on my back, and that's when I knew I could go to sleep."

Then Duresseau was approved to receive a cochlear implant, which would take over the functions of his damaged inner ear and enable him to hear again. While his boyfriend recovered from having the implant surgically inserted, Kennedy planned an unforgettable way to celebrate the return of Durresseau's hearing.

"We had talked a little bit about getting married -- well, signed about it, at least," Kenedy revealed. "I wanted the first thing that I said to him to be asking for his hand."

After getting permission from his boyfriend's audiologist and calling the people closest to the couple to attend the big proposal, he asked Duresseau to spend forever with him.

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"I was in shock," Duresseau said. "I'm hearing all these click sounds, I'm hearing my brother speak, and I can hear Kerry, and the first thing that comes out of his mouth -- it's this big spiel about what we've been through and he's down on one knee."

The video of their engagement has gone viral, with viewers even approaching the couple at the supermarket. However, they are most grateful for the support of those who cannot hear. "The deaf community rallied behind us and helped us a lot to get through that six-month period," Kennedy noted.

Surviving the tragedy has enhanced the couple's bond.

"Before, I knew he loved me, but now? It's surreal. He's there," Duresseau rejoiced, realizing how losing his sight, mobility, and hearing has altered his outlook. "I'll stop and smell the roses, so to speak."

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