Surviving A Stroke: A Love That Withstands All

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TOPEKA, Kansas (WIBW) -- Through thick and thin, in sickness and in health -- Vows couples are supposed to remember when the unexpected happens.

After one Topeka couple suffered through a stroke, they still keep those vows. It is a love that has withstood all.

"It was a wonderful day. A wonderful day."

As he hold's his wife's hand, Steve Andersen thinks back on their wedding day 13 years ago. It was in June, it was 72 degrees, and perfect.

Their marriage has remained that way throughout their many adventures. Auctioneering, boating, taking their RV across the country, and lots of love and laughter along the way.

"We just had the fun of our life."

In 2010, the life they knew changed.

"We were camping all week, we came home, and she had the stroke," Steve said.

Liz agrees next to him and in mumbled speech says, "It was awful."

Steve nods his head. "Yeah."

It was a severe stroke that almost took her. Not just that, but she suffered a brain bleed as well. It didn't look too good.

"They just told me, she's not going to survive this, you need to go home and start planning the funeral. And later on I found out she died twice on the table," Steve said.

But, Liz fought to live.

The four years of hospital stays, rehab, a move to Topeka and definite ups and downs have not been easy.

"My wife was not the same person I knew."

But, because of his constant care around the clock and being around her kids, Steve says the sassy woman he fell in love with is starting to shine through.

"The results I see in her, her attitude, her zest for life, she's got her sense of humor back, she's got hope. She's just doing so much better."

She moves a little slower now, but it's still Liz. Right down to her fingernails.

Steve holds up her purple painted fingers.

"Just to make sure she was the way she was before the stroke. She always liked her nails pretty."

He said she always wore fake nails, and made sure she had them at the bedside. When one would pop off, he'd stick another one back on. Now he paints them for her. He files them, buffs them and paints them.

"Her toenails match her fingernails too. She loves her hair, loves makeup, she loves looking pretty. I try to duplicate that now. I'm not quite good at it, but I'm trying. Makeup is next."

Liz said jokingly he's not sure if he can do it. But he'll certainly give it all he's got.

Liz said it's a little "different" that Steve has to take care of her in every aspect of her life, even the more personal tasks. But it makes her feel good.

"I know the love is there," she said.

It's a love story in its truest form.

"To the moon and back. Times..? Times?" Steve says to Liz, trying to prompt a saying they share.

Liz says, "Ten."

"Infinity!" Steve reminds her. "I love her to the moon and back. She's my best friend, she's everything to me. I wouldn't change it for the world. Right? Would you change it for the world?"

Liz shakes her head.

"I wouldn't either."

Liz's recent accomplishments are being able to walk 900 feet with her walker. Her biggest fear however is falling because her balance is not quite where they want it to be yet. Steve said she's starting water therapy.

She and Steve still go on adventures like they used to and are thinking about buying another RV. He'll have to make sure it's wheelchair accessible of course.

Since moving to Topeka, they've joined a stroke survivor group, and said he wants to get the message out there about what it's like surviving a stroke and his role as a caregiver.