Most couples have years before facing the “for worse” years in marriage. For Elise Boni and Ryan Forner, both 2012 education graduates, the hard times hit before the wedding.
Plans were being made for the July 16, 2016, ceremony when Elise had seizures. Doctors at Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital found a blood clot in her brain, which caused two strokes and left her unconscious for a month. She had a portion of her skull removed to relieve swelling.
“Thankfully, I don’t remember any of this,” said Elise, who was diagnosed with epilepsy. She awoke in December paralyzed on the right side and unable to talk, walk or swallow.
“I had to rebuild myself,” she said. Intense therapy sessions continued through April, with her skull replaced in March. Through it all, she was determined to keep the wedding date and walk to Ryan.
“Rehabilitation was intense,” Elise recalls, but so was her determination. “The drive to step out on my wedding day and walk toward my future husband was everything I needed to keep me moving during recovery.”
“I joked with her that she would get emotional, but I had more tears than her that day,” Ryan said. The memory of being told she initially was given only a 50 percent chance of living made the moment miraculous.
She not only survived but reached her goal although instead of an aisle, the couple walked the turf at Hancock Stadium. They are the first to be married at the stadium. The location was perfect, as ISU brought them together through mutual friends.
The two became good friends themselves, with Ryan admitting to significant flirting when they were undergraduates. They reconnected in 2015 through the same ISU friends and began dating.
Ryan planned to propose on campus at the couples’ bench. Although they did not have classes together because he studied secondary math and she chose elementary education, both have plenty of DeGarmo Hall memories.
Given the campus connection they still appreciate, it’s not surprising the friends who brought them together were in the wedding. All involved were graduates, including the officiant.
Elise and Ryan reside in Villa Park. Both are teaching and are continuing their education. They agree the crisis made them a stronger couple, and are grateful to be enjoying better days as newlyweds.