01:00am Monday 23 October 2017

Defying the odds: Paralyzed patient to wed long-time love

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—An avid hunter, fisherman and ironworker, 39-year-old Mark Desy from Homer, Mich., is a man’s man. “A balls to the wall, larger than life kind of guy,” says Vicki Wood, Desy’s partner of 15 years. “I call him Superman.”

Today, Desy sits in a hospital bed at the University of Michigan, breathing with the assistance of a respirator and unable to move from the neck down, unable to speak except by whisper without special maneuvers to let the air pass over his vocal cords due to the breathing tube in his throat.

He was severely injured while at work June 17. A roof truss fell on his head and neck. He couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe. It wasn’t clear whether he’d make it. He is now quadriplegic.

“They said he was dead on the scene and we almost lost him twice in the ICU,” Wood says. “I told him as soon as he could say ‘I do’ out loud, he was going to marry me.”  

Wednesday at 4 p.m., after two-and-a-half months of treatment to stabilize his condition at the University of Michigan Health System in the Trauma Burn Intensive Care Unit and on the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Unit, Desy will say, “I do.”

Chaplain Tom  Burdette says that statistically, when a relationship or marriage sustains a major trauma, such as the death of a child or a disabling event such as Desy’s, the vast majority of these relationships end.

But Wood, who is a home health care nurse, knows what she’s getting into.

When asked if he remembered the moment Wood popped the question and how he felt, Desy whispered laughingly, “Yes, I was scared because I couldn’t run away! But really, I was happy because we should have done it a long time ago. We just never got around to it.”

It’s clear from the way they interact with each other that their love is deep and their sense of humor helps sustain them.

Wood can read Desy’s lips like a wiz. She’s been by his side every day since the accident.

“From the minute she got to the Trauma Burn Unit, she was wonderful with him,” says Burdette, who will be performing the wedding ceremony and who has known the couple since Desy’s first night in the Emergency Department. “She stood by him and looked out for his best interests.”

“When I learned of their interest in getting married, I discussed the vows with Vicki. In sickness and in health — those issues usually come up later in marriage, not from the minute you enter into it. It didn’t matter to her. She told me, ‘This is my man and I’m sticking with him!’,” Burdette says.  

When asked why now, Wood explains, “We took advantage of the good times and I wanted to be sure that even though we were already married in our hearts, if we lost him at least we were married. This cements for him especially, that I’m committed to him no matter what. I want him to have no doubts.”

Ceremony details:

Guests may begin to arrive at 3:30 p.m. at the University Hospital Chapel, Room UH2A220. The ceremony will take place at 4 p.m. Reporters are welcome to attend but must call the Office of Public Relations at 734-764-2220 to schedule an escort before arriving at the hospital. Mark Desy’s last name is pronounced “daisy” like the flower.

Resources:

U-M PM&R Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program: www2.med.umich.edu/healthcenters/clinic_detail.cfm?hc_id=&service_id=465

U-M Trauma Burn Center: www.traumaburn.org/who/welcome.shtml

U-M Spiritual Care Department: www.med.umich.edu/1toolbar/support/spirit.htm

Living with spinal cord injury: http://health.med.umich.edu/healthcontent.cfm?xyzpdqabc=0&id=6&action=detail&AEProductID=HW_Knowledgebase&AEArticleID=ug2580

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Media contact: Jessica Soulliere
E-mail: jesssoul@umich.edu
Phone: 734-764-2220


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