It’s been almost eight years since Randy Travis had a stroke, eliminating — at least for now — his ability to speak and sing, due to aphasia that occurred following his stroke. Mary still vividly remembers the final words her husband spoke to her, unaware of how much she would cling to those words for years to come.
“The day that we went to the hospital, that evening, Randy had worked out the day before,” Mary recalled during a virtual luncheon hosted by Houston Aphasia Recovery Center. “Everything was fine. Health-wise, everything was fine. And he didn’t feel good. Just that evening, ‘I don’t feel good.’ Went to the hospital, and they said it was walking pneumonia. The next morning, after doing all the things they said to do over the night, I took him back because he said, ‘I can’t breathe at all.'”
Mary took Travis back to the emergency room where they quickly realized that Travis’ diagnosis was dire.
“They looked at his lungs again,” Mary said. “They said, ‘The lungs are full. Double-pneumonia,’ and they wanted to take us to a higher level of care, because actually what was happening is, the heart was shutting down, with cardiomyopathy. I can remember our last conversation with his voice. He said, ‘I love you, baby.’ And I said, ‘I love you too, and I’ll be right outside waiting.”
Travis was in a coma when he had the stroke, which means it went undetected for three days. Although Mary was told that Travis only had a six-month window to recover whatever speaking ability he would have, she didn’t believe it then, nor does she believe it now.
“I can’t tell you how many times we heard in the hospital that whatever speech you’re going to get back, you’ll get it back in the first six months,” Mary remembered. “After that, there’s really no hope. We didn’t have much of a prayer then, because number one, his stroke was detected three days after, so we lost the stroke reversal medication luxury. And then we were in the hospital for six months. So I guess whatever speech we were going to get back, we were already done. We had already spent our time.
“That was very frustrating to know that they put a deadline on it, because there is no deadline,” she maintained. “We are eight years out now. In July it will be eight years. And there’s still every day a new word or two words put together. Those are the exciting things. But it is not six months. The brain doesn’t have a deadline on it.”
Travis stunned the crowd during in 2016, during his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, where he unexpectedly sang “Amazing Grace,” but his wife says there will likely be plenty more of those moments to come.
“This man has so much fight in him, and so much determination,” Mary boasted. “That’s what made it easy for me to keep going, was just to look in his eyes and see that smile that the world knows, the Randy Travis smile. That was my motivation, day in and day out.”