When Randy Travis went to the hospital in the summer of 2013, he had no idea how sick he was – or that life as he knew it would never be the same. Originally battling what he believed to be a respiratory infection, Travis was admitted to the hospital on July 7, and diagnosed with viral cardiomyopathy.
Travis quickly became gravely ill, and placed in a medically-induced coma. While in a coma, Travis suffered a devastating stroke, with extensive damage to his body, in part because the stroke went undetected for more than 72 hours, until the doctors began to remove Travis from his unconscious state. The stroke impacted Travis severely, paralyzing his right side and taking away his ability to speak.
While Travis certainly has a long way to go, the fact that he can now walk, and speak, is nothing short of a miracle. The 60-year-old details his illness, and his determined road to recovery in his new memoir, Forever and Ever, Amen: A Memoir of Music, Faith, and Braving the Storms of Life, which he wrote with Ken Abraham.
"It's amazing to me because Randy spent about six months in the hospital, in various hospitals, and about six weeks of that in some sort of coma," Abraham told PopCulture.com. "And the doctors said, 'He's never going to be able to walk again. He's never going to be able to talk again.' You saw him walk in here today. He can talk and he's Randy Travis. God's not done with him yet."
In Forever and Ever, Amen, Travis recalls the moment he went to the emergency room, after he had trouble breathing. Although he was sick, he had no way to know how much every part of his life was about to change. He writes, when recalling his admission to the hospital, "I didn't know it, of course, but that was the last right-handed signature I would sign."
Through it all, Travis' now wife, Mary, stayed by him every minute, even though they were not yet married. Travis was given a one to two percent chance of survival, which was enough for Mary to cling to hope, praying that Randy would come back in "any way, shape or form."
"That was my prayer," Mary recalled. "And that was my discussion with God every single night. Five and a half months. Just give him back to me. Any way."
Travis disappeared from the spotlight while he worked on his recovery and getting his strength back. So no one expected Travis to take the stage when he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016, let along sing "Amazing Grace."
"We didn't tell anybody he was going to do that," Mary recalled. "When I said [in the acceptance speech] I gave you back the voice of Randy Travis, we have friends that were in the audience, even from Texas, and there were like, 'What is she doing? Has she lost her mind?' They tell me that story. They said, 'We just stood there and said, 'Has Mary lost her mind?' And he took that microphone and it was like he knew exactly what to do and how to do it.
"We practiced it a lot," she added. "But just the two of us. It was a special moment and he didn't let me down. He didn't let the world down."
Travis, who just appeared at his birthday celebration at the Grand Ole Opry, is still getting stronger, and hints that we might not have seen the last of him. But whether or not Travis is ever the way he was before his illness, Mary is grateful for the life they have together.
"I think every day you just hope that everything goes away and it's all a bad dream and that this is not really what we expect out of life," she said. "There's no manual that any of us are given that prepares us for something like that. Because, as far as the devastation that a stroke and viral cardiomyopathy, they had already approved him for a heart transplant three days after we got to the hospital.
"There was so much that was coming at us so fast," she continued. "I knew what I was praying. I just wanted him alive, and I didn't care how it was. And this to me is just as beautiful as if he was healthy and whole and still on the road."
Purchase Forever and Ever, Amen: A Memoir of Music, Faith, and Braving the Storms of Life on Amazon.com.
Photo Credit: Getty / Terry Wyatt