Windsor

Man's memories of engagement wiped out by massive stroke, wedding video helping him heal

McGregor couple Darren and Tracy Rigg were ecstatic to receive their wedding video this week, because often times Darren can't remember that day. His memory was affected after suffering from a stroke - the day after he proposed to Tracy.

Darren and Tracy Rigg were engaged on Christmas Day 2015, a day before a stroke damaged Darren's memory

Darren and Tracy Rigg's wedding video is extra special to the newly married couple. That's because it helps Darren remember the day. (Steve Shilson/Straylight Films)

Darren and Tracy Rigg were ecstatic and emotional when they finally laid eyes on their wedding video this week — a happy reminder of any couple's big day. The Riggs were married in August, but Darren struggles to remember that special day. 

The McGregor, Ont. couple were engaged on Christmas Day in 2015. That Boxing Day, Tracy came home to discover Darren had suffered a massive stroke that significantly affected his cognitive and motor functions, and his memory.

"He kept thinking it was the 90s ... and it seemed like he had no issue remembering at times who I was, he just couldn't remember how we met or how I fit into his timeline," said Tracy. 

"He would see my ring and go 'We're engaged?''- Tracy Rigg

Darren also did not remember that he and Tracy were engaged. 

"He would see my ring and go 'We're engaged?'" Tracy said. "When your person doesn't remember anything about how you met, things you've done, little things ... it's very overwhelming."

This picture was taken in 2016, while Darren was still recovering from his stroke. (Tracy Rigg)

Darren, who was 50-years-old at the time, spent about six months in hospital, and in rehabilitation recovering from his injury. But he fought through those times, committing to his fitness regime that was important to him before the stroke. He also relied on Windsor doctors to help him slowly make improvements with his brain function.

People hire us to capture their wedding day ... but in Darren's case they were hiring us to film their wedding so he could look back and remember it happened.- Steve Shilson, Straylight Films

Tracy said she never even thought about leaving Darren, and when he was finally more stable they decided to go on with the wedding. 

They surprised their friends and family by having an intimate wedding at their annual family barbecue. Tracy contacted Steve Shilson at Straylight Films in Windsor to document the whole thing. 

Watch Darren and Tracy's wedding day video:

"People hire us to capture their wedding day so they can relive it for years to come as memories fade, but in Darren's case they were hiring us to film their wedding so he could look back and remember it happened," said Shilson. "That alone was just — we had been doing this 11 years — and I've never been moved like that." 

Shilson posted the video online on Monday, and since then the views have continued to swell.

Im not saying it's easy — everyday is a different day — but everyday I have him here.- Tracy Rigg

The Riggs are not fazed by the attention the video is getting. Tracy is just happy to have something to show her husband to trigger his memory.

"Deep in my heart I believe they're there, those memories. He remembers every once in a while something that just blows my mind," she said. 

The Rigg's were married in a surprise ceremony, at their family's annual barbecue. (Steve Shilson/Straylight Films)

Darren continues to work hard at his recovery and it's unclear if he will ever completely regain his memory. For now, the two are happy to have their lives together. 

"I've seen so many other people experience such greater loss and so many worse things," said Tracy. "I'm not saying it's easy — every day is a different day — but every day I have him here."

About the Author

Kaitie Fraser

Reporter/Editor

Kaitie Fraser is a reporter at CBC Windsor. Email Kaitie.Fraser@cbc.ca

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