The first date 23-year-old Laura Faganello remembers having with her husband, Brayden Faganello, 25, was a round of mini-golf. They started the date with some nervous small talk and she made sure to throw in a few jokes “to make him think (she) was funny.” By the third hole, however, they were flirting, laughing and having a lot of fun.
“At that point, we had been married for two years,” she said.
Laura and Brayden Faganello, who are members of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Victoria British Columbia Stake, were married July 14, 2016, in the Vancouver British Columbia Temple. Nine months later, the couple’s lives took an unexpected turn when Laura suffered a traumatic head injury, losing many of her long-term memories. Among the memories she had lost were the memories of meeting, marrying and falling in love with Brayden.
On April 27, 2017, Laura Faganello was hired to help set up for a business event. She remembered everything being a little chaotic while everyone was setting up and decorating tables. Three women put up poles for the large tent. Laura Faganello noticed the poles weren’t put on flat ground, but she didn’t think anything of it. She was asked to decorate a table in front of one of the poles, and as she worked, the wind came and pulled the pole on top of her head.
“I still remember the noise it made when it hit my head,” Laura Faganello said. “I still remember how it felt. I still have nightmares of that. After that, everyone was fanning my eyes and telling me not to cry. That’s when the fog started setting in.”
She remembered wandering around the event site and wanting her parents to come pick her up, not realizing that her parents had moved to Brussels, Belgium, three years earlier. Her memories were beginning to leave her.
When she received a text message from Brayden Faganello asking how she was doing, she was confused. She had no idea she had a husband, but in her shock she simply responded: “I got hit on the head.”
“I was working on the exterior of a house about 10 minutes away,” Brayden Faganello said. “As soon as I read that, I just dropped my toolbelt and ran to my car and left to go find her. When I found her, she was stone-faced. Blank. Her eyes were tearing up, her breathing was quickened, and something seemed very wrong.”
Brayden took Laura home, and she went to sleep. According to the couple, she didn’t do much besides sleep the couple of weeks following the accident. In fact, she did not remember anything from that period of time.
The next thing she did remember after the accident was two weeks later, waking up with Brayden Faganello beside her, casually wishing her a “good morning,” and she had no idea who he was. She said her head was spinning and she “was in so much pain, (she) needed to throw up.”
“On my way to the bathroom, I remember seeing our wedding album on the table and our laundry all mixed together, and I was so confused,” Laura Faganello said. “In my brain, I was 17 years old and in high school. I had exams to study for. I couldn’t fathom the fact that I was married and living in Canada.”
According to Brayden Faganello, Laura Faganello had a hard time expressing herself during that time. All she would tell him was that her head hurt. Sometimes she would wake up in the middle of the night screaming in fear because she did not know who Brayden was and why he was in her room.
After a few experiences like this, the Faganellos drove to the hospital and heard the diagnosis of a serious concussion with the advice to “go home and rest.”
“It was hard to rest,” Brayden Faganello said. “You can only rest for so long before you go crazy.”
After several visits in and out of hospitals and doctors’ offices, Laura and Brayden Faganello began the slow healing process. As part of Laura Faganello’s healing process, she worked with Dr. Kate Brookfield, who began helping with the recovery process 15 months after the accident. In an email interview with the Deseret News, she said that Laura’s case is “one of a kind.”
“Concussions can occur a variety of different ways and usually involve trauma to the head, such as a sports injury, motor vehicle accident or hit to the head like Laura’s case,” Brookfield said. “Every single patient’s subjective and objective responses can be very different, which can make concussions challenging to treat. Every concussion is different, and it affects every patient differently.”
As Laura Faganello’s chiropractor, Brookfield helped ease her symptoms with exercises and strategies to help her manage simple, daily tasks through her neurophysiological system.
“Laura was very positive and eager to get better, and her determination proved to be a success,” Brookfield said.
Although she tried to stay “positive and eager” after months of slow progress, Laura Faganello “hit rock bottom.” She felt depressed and trapped and experienced a lack of agency because she felt like (she) was facing the consequences — good and bad — of decisions she did not remember making, including being married to someone she did not know.
“I told Brayden that I couldn’t be in a marriage I didn’t remember committing to any longer,” Laura Faganello said. “We either needed to commit to staying together or we needed to go our separate ways. In January we decided to start dating again. We became best friends first, then we did all the sweet things people do when they have a crush on the other person.”
When Laura Faganello started feeling well enough to socialize, her friend Rachel Watters said Laura Faganello didn’t remember her house or any of the memories they had created together in the last couple of years. The two friends had to become close all over again.
“It was shocking,” Watters said. “It was really odd to rebuild that connection with her, because I already felt close but she didn’t. Brayden would mention something from before that she wouldn’t remember and then he would tell her and us in detail about the event, and she would trust and listen as if hearing a story about someone else. Brayden especially was so patient, loving and kind.”
As they experienced the dating stage for their second time, Laura Faganello continued to progress. On Aug. 19, Brayden Faganello “re-proposed” and Laura said yes. She was ready to say yes to him again because he had become someone she “couldn’t imagine letting go.”
“It has been a lot of slow, patient progress over these last few years,” Brayden Faganello said. “There have been numerous miracles over the last few years. A lot of fasting, a lot of blessings and a lot of temple visits that have led us to being able to see her get the place we are today. It all stems from those patient little efforts.”
Laura Faganello’s sister, Olivia Hart, noticed a growth in Laura’s confidence and assertiveness throughout the healing process.
“It has been amazing that she has been able to be more present at family events,” Hart said. “She is so funny and brings such a bright light to any gathering. I think that the changes that I have seen in Laura aren’t necessarily new personality characteristics that have suddenly come out, but rather a return to the person that she had been before — smart, kind, and graceful — with some refinement.”
Hart has witnessed firsthand some of the pain that Laura Faganello has gone through. Laura Faganello not only had to deal with the memory loss and loss of basic function, she also had to put her schooling on hold and cope with the struggle of everyday tasks.
“It would be a victory for her to be able to make it to Church for just the length of time to partake of the sacrament,” Hart said. “She would then have to go home to recover because of the noise of the chapel, the commotion of people moving around, and static of the microphone was just too much stimulation for her brain.”
Although Laura Faganello had a difficult time sitting in Church meetings, the biggest thing Watters witnessed in Laura was her dedication to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“When her memory failed her, and she felt lost and scared, she would reach out to her Heavenly Father and to the gospel,” Watters said. “In prayer, in scripture, in the sacrament. These were her constants. She consistently found peace in what she knew was right, and the faith that the people around her knew her, loved her, and were trying to help. The gospel has helped ground her and given her a firm foundation, even a shared foundation, to rebuild relationships and memories from.”
“I know our vows were more than just earthly vows,” Brayden Faganello said. “I knew of the eternal importance of the commitment we made to each other. Through the hard times, I held very dearly to that.”
Although Laura Faganello didn’t remember the details of their wedding, she knew she had wanted a temple marriage her whole life. According to Brayden Faganello, it was important enough to Laura that she was willing to do what she needed to do to make that work.
“The reason we are still together is because of our efforts to be more like Christ,” Laura Faganello said. “We were both a little rough around the edges with each other before the accident happened. We had the typical new couple fights, and we weren’t patient with each other. As we’ve studied our scriptures together after the accident, we have implemented every lesson into our lives.”
Laura and Brayden Faganello agreed their faith has been the largest factor in their physical and emotional healing.
“One day someone asked me, ‘Haven’t you prayed to be healed? Maybe you don’t have the faith sufficient to be healed if you’re not healed yet,’” Laura Faganello remembered. “That hit me very deep. Because of all the things I value most, my testimony is No. 1. To consider the fact that I had lost everything: my ability to speak, read, walk far, my memories — everything. I lost everything, but I never lost my testimony.”
In fact, Laura Faganello said she gained a stronger testimony that “sometimes we need faith to not be healed.” The greatest lesson she learned from this experience is to have faith in God’s timing.
“Even if something isn’t happening right when you want it to, it doesn’t mean he’s not aware of you,” Laura Faganello said. “I know God is aware of me. I know he saw every tear. He has listened to every prayer.”