I Flew 1,200 Miles to Fake Being Engaged to an ICU Patient I’d Never Met Before — And Now We’re Married

He went along with the "fact" that we were together. Or maybe he thought we really were together — his brain was bleeding, after all.
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Sheri Schooley
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He went along with the "fact" that we were together. Or maybe he thought we really were together — his brain was bleeding, after all.
At Tracy and Scott's Wedding.

At Tracy and Scott's Wedding.

Let me take you back. Back to a time when maybe only one of your friends had a cellular phone. And it was the size of a brick. Back to the time when there was very limited access to the internet and approximately zero dating websites. Back to a time when you either met your love interest through friends, or at a bar, or at a bar with friends. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am talking about the 1990s. The late 1990s, to be specific.

I grew up in a small town, population: cows. There were 48 people in my graduating class. Everyone knew everyone else's business. And I hated everything about all of it. So when I was a senior in high school, I applied to college anywhere but there, and wound up at the University of Central Florida, 1,200 miles away from home.

It was during my sophomore year that I received a call from my very best friend back home, telling me she was getting married and asking me to be her Maid of Honor. As if I would really tell her "no," I joked that I refused to walk down the aisle with someone I didn't know.

About a week later I received a page from an unknown number from back in Cowtown, USA. (If you don't remember or aren't sure what a pager is, I think ER doctors still have them. At least they do on television.) I called it back, and the introduction was made. It was the man who was slated to be the Best Man in my best friend's wedding. His best friend was marrying my best friend. So cliché.

John and I talked a bit that night and made plans to talk the following Monday. We joked that he and I would meet the Friday before the wedding, get engaged that Saturday, and get married that Sunday. After all, this was going to be a weekend fling. I would fly in, stand up, get down, and fly back out.

That following Monday turned into every single night for two months. For hours on end, we talked about anything and everything. (And this is before unlimited long-distance; our phone bills ranged in the hundreds of dollars!) We laughed, shared secrets, and this crazy, irrational, undeniable bond grew between us. Yes, I'll admit, I was far more than smitten. I like to think he was, too.

Then, one evening, I came home to a horrible message on my answering machine. His friend called me to let me know he didn't know when John would be calling me again, because he had been involved in a serious car accident on his way to work. He was in ICU. He had bleeding on his brain and his pelvis was sheared. They really weren't sure if he was going to make it.

My heart fell out of my chest and I crumbled. I needed to see him, needed to see him with my own eyes to see that he was going to be okay. 

I charged a plane ticket to my roommate's credit card (I didn't have one — I was barely 19) and called my parents to tell them that (obviously) I was flying to New York two days later to visit John. Yes, John, the guy I had never actually met. And I was flying 1200 miles to see him. To make sure he was okay. To make sure he was going to be okay. He needed to be okay. He just did.

But wait. He was in ICU, and visitors were very limited. Family. I wasn't family. I hadn't even met the guy. So I did what any other girl would do: I placed the diamond ring my grandmother had left me on my left hand and told the hospital I was his fiancée.

When I walked in, he was conscious, and, because he had seen pictures of me, he recognized me. He smiled. He couldn't believe I came all the way from Florida to see him. He even went along with the "fact" that we were together. Or maybe he thought we really were together — he had hit his head, after all. And he was really hopped up on painkillers. Either way, there I am, in person, in the ICU, with my fake fiancé, for the first time ever.

I had known this man for a matter of hours, yet according to the staff, we were engaged. 

And a short while later, it happened. This would be the moment that sealed the deal with us forever. 

His nurse came in. She came in to give him a sponge bath. She looked at me, and said, "Do you want to help? I know you've seen this before."

Ummmmm, do what now?

Mr. and Mrs. Schooley.

Mr. and Mrs. Schooley.

That was a bit much, even for me, so I said, "Oh, sure," and patiently waited by the window for them to be done. I did take the opportunity to sneak a peek at the goods, though; I mean, I needed to see what I was getting into.

And that is how our love story began. Seems like it was straight out of a movie. Or one of those books with the shirtless guy on a horse on the front.

John was in the hospital for six weeks and was released just in time for me to go stay with him for Spring Break. That summer, he moved in with me and we moved back to Podunk Upstate New York in the fall. Tracy and Scott's beautiful wedding, where this whole entire thing began, came and went, and unlike the fling John and I thought we were going to have, our relationship has lasted far more than a weekend. 

We have been together now for nearly 20 years. We became husband and wife 13-and-a-half years ago, and we have two amazing, beautiful daughters.

Happily ever after.

Happily ever after.

You never know what life holds for you. Things can turn on a dime and your life can change in ways you never in a million years imagined it would. However, in the end, though your fairytale may be different than what you expected, it is, nevertheless, magical.