Matt was the perfect husband… until a simple fall turned everything on its head.
By Mandy Knowles, 45, from Cradley Heath, West Midlands
I walked into my local club and noticed him immediately. Tall, dark and handsome, I couldn’t believe my luck.
‘I wouldn’t mind a piece of that,’ I joked to my friend as we made our way to the bar.
So when Matt, 29, asked me later if he could buy me a drink, I almost choked on my pint. ‘Another one of these please,’ I smiled, raising my glass.
‘Coming right up,’ he replied with a twinkle in his eye.
The hours flew by as we spent the evening side-by-side giggling like silly schoolchildren.
Matt was gorgeous but what attracted me to him most, was his personality. We swapped numbers at the end of the night and before long, we were an item.
With an infectious laugh, Matt always had everyone in stitches. He was the most outgoing, bubbly person I’d ever met. And when I introduced him to my daughters, Tammie, now 19, and Kirstie, 18, they fell in love with Matt too.
We moved in together and a year later, in 2006, we had a little boy, Liam, to complete our family.
It didn’t matter that it was hard to find five minutes peace in our house, I had everything I could ever want.
When Matt got down on one knee and asked me to be his wife, I didn’t hesitate to say yes.
We tied the knot in a big white wedding in August 2012 in front of our family and friends. I’d never been happier. I’d married the man of my dreams.
The following January, just five months after we wed, I was choosing photos for my wedding album when the phone rang.
It was my brother Gary, 48. Matt had tripped while washing his van and hit his head.
He said: ‘Don’t worry, if he needs to go to hospital for stitches, I’ll bring him home.’
‘Ok’ I replied. ‘Keep me updated.’
But it didn’t take long for Gary to call back, this time he sounded fraught.
‘He needs a scan, Mandy,’ he told me. ‘You need to come in.’
I dropped everything and rushed to the hospital. There, doctors explained Matt had broken his skull in three places.
I was stunned when he was induced into a coma and wheeled into surgery for seven hours. All after a silly fall.
For a whole week, I kept a bedside vigil. I simply couldn’t imagine life without my happy-go-lucky hubby in it.
So when Matt eventually came round, I breathed a sigh of relief. I had my husband back… or did I?
Distressed and agitated, Matt discharged himself a week later, against medical advice. He had lost his sense of taste and smell and he had to be forced to eat.
It was the beginning of a bumpy road ahead and within a month, it was clear something was seriously wrong.
I was relaxing in the bath one evening when Matt stormed in and threw a suitcase of my clothes at me.
‘Get out!’ He screamed!
I had no idea what I’d done wrong.
Soon, he’d banned showers because they made too much mess and was spending hours organising the tins in the cupboard and making sure everything in the house was symmetrical.
The slightest noise would trigger a huge argument and our house that was once so full of laughter was reduced to a whisper.
When Matt threatened to throw us out on a whim or smash the house up, I was at my wits’ end. We should have been newlyweds, instead I was living with a stranger.
‘I can’t take this anymore,’ I sobbed one day, after Matt had thrown my clothes out of the window. ‘I’m done.’
I packed my bags and took the children to my parents, but staying away from my marital home was easier said than done.
The ink was barely dry on our wedding certificate and I meant it when I made those vows… for better or worse, in sickness and in health.
When I returned, Matt was full of apologies. He didn’t understand what was happening to him. He was as terrified as we were. Matt’s fall had plunged us all into a nightmare.
Within a few months I’d managed to re-introduce Matt into the chain of care. He has since been prescribed medication and referred to a therapist, and although he isn’t the man I married, his condition continues to improve.
I still can’t believe a simple fall robbed me of the man of my dreams.