Amputee walks down the aisle

Ms Amanda Flores (left) at her wedding at Luther Place Memorial Church in Washington and with her husband Frank Bordoy (below) at their wedding reception at the Plaza Hotel.
Ms Amanda Flores (above) at her wedding at Luther Place Memorial Church in Washington and with her husband Frank Bordoy at their wedding reception at the Plaza Hotel.PHOTO: NYTIMES
Ms Amanda Flores (left) at her wedding at Luther Place Memorial Church in Washington and with her husband Frank Bordoy (below) at their wedding reception at the Plaza Hotel.
Ms Amanda Flores at her wedding at Luther Place Memorial Church in Washington and with her husband Frank Bordoy (above) at their wedding reception at the Plaza Hotel.PHOTO: NYTIMES

Amanda Flores, who lost all four limbs from an illness, said she would get married only if she could make her own way to the altar

NEW YORK • It was April 2013 when Mr Frank Bordoy first spotted Ms Amanda Flores at Clyde's, a bar and restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia. With her dark hair, runner's body and quick laugh, he found her adorable.

But she was chatting with another guy and he was not sure if the two were together or not.

They were not. In fact, she had noticed Mr Bordoy too. He was "the only Puerto Rican-looking guy in the place", said Ms Flores, now 37.

"He was super handsome and had that Caribbean look to him and I just melted."

He sidled over and began talking.

The duo quickly discovered similarities. She grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland, with a Mexican mother and Ecuadorean father.

He was from Danbury, Connecticut, by way of Puerto Rico.

She worked in marketing and advertising. Mr Bordoy, a former Marine, had moved to the area to attend the police academy.

Both were divorced, each having two kids younger than seven. Drinks morphed into dinner and dinner turned into dating.

In June, she told him she loved him. Two months later, he repeated the sentiment.

By April 2014, he had moved into her Silver Spring house with her and her sons - TJ, now nine, and Andy, now six. His children live with their mother in Connecticut.

They were "finding our niche in life being like a family", she said. "It was a whole adjustment merging our families together, but everything was going really well."

But in late November 2014, she started feeling achy, with coughing, laryngitis and a terrible sore throat.

"I felt like I had been hit by a train, that lethargic feeling," she said.

"I felt dizzy."

Doctors said it was the flu, but the symptoms angrily persisted.

On Christmas Eve, Mr Bordoy took her to a doctor. The nurses took her blood oxygen levels, which were dangerously low.

The last thing she remembers is getting into the ambulance. "Please don't leave me," she told Mr Bordoy before slipping into a coma.

It turned out that she had strep throat, which led to sepsis. She went into renal failure; one by one her organs began shutting down. Blood stopped flowing to her limbs.

"The doctors told us she would probably die," said her sister Isabel Llerena, 48.

She recalled the anguish she felt seeing her sister lying motionless for two months at the hospital.

"Her entire body was swollen," she said. "It was one of the biggest shocks I've ever had. All of a sudden, she'd deteriorated to this level.

"It was unbelievable."

The doctors told the family, who by this time had set up camp in the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Centre in Baltimore - replete with electric kettles, sleeping bags and pillows - that they might be able to save her if they amputated her limbs.

"The surgeon asked, 'Do you think she can handle it? Will she have the will to survive? Most people don't'," Ms Llerena recalled.

"I said, 'Absolutely. She has those two little boys to live for.'"

On Jan 2, doctors amputated her legs. Two weeks later, they amputated her arms.

During this time, Mr Bordoy never wavered. He went to the hospital after 12-hour police shifts in Washington or in the morning before work.

"I just kept going," he said.

"I would put on two masks, one when I was with her and the family in the hospital and another face at work. It was almost like having two people in one. You can't bring your troubles to work and vice versa.

"It was rough seeing the woman you love in the hospital, seeing her limbs go from purple to black."

To handle his frustration and anxiety, he said he spent extra time at the gym, prayed a lot and read the Bible.

Despite his stoicism, her family wanted to let him know that they did not expect him to stay.

One afternoon, Ms Llerena and her brother, and their spouses, decided to broach the subject.

They sat down with Mr Bordoy and told him that they understood if he did not feel up to the task.

They had been together for only a year and a half at that point. No one would begrudge him if he left.

"We said, this is life-changing and she's always going to need some level of assistance, and we totally understand if you don't think you are up to this," Ms Llerena recalled, her voice catching.

"If you decide it's not what you want to do, it's OK, no hard feelings."

But Mr Bordoy was not going anywhere. He had found the woman he loved. "I said, 'Legally, on paper, we might not be married, but she's my wife. I'm not going to walk away from that.'"

Ms Flores slipped in and out of unconsciousness, finally fully coming out of it in February. That was when she learnt that both her legs were amputated above the knee, and her arms below the elbow.

It did not quite make sense. "I couldn't realise that my limbs weren't there," she said. "You still feel the limbs. I can move all my fingers as if they were there."

Instead of leaving her, Mr Bordoy doubled down and proposed.

"I was just so glad that she was alive and it was, like, why are you going to wait?" he said.

She immediately said yes, with a caveat. She was going to marry him only if she could walk down the aisle.

Many amputees, she learnt, never made it out of a wheelchair. Not her.

Mr Bordoy did not doubt she would do it. "Once she sets her mind on something, nothing's going to stop her," he said.

Ms Flores was out of the hospital and rehabilitation within four months, but it was an enormous adjustment, of course.

She was severely depressed and considered suicide. She could not move her neck. It took three people to sit her up.

"You have no energy," she said.

Slowly, she learnt to use prosthetics, practising first on "stubbies" as she called them - prosthetic sockets with very short legs - before gradually moving up to full-length legs.

Within a year, she was using full-length prosthetic legs with microprocessor knees. She also has prosthetic arms.

Finally, she felt ready to get married. Last Saturday, she did just that.

Before a crowd of 95 friends, family members, her physical therapist and her prosthetists, she walked down the aisle in a strapless beaded white gown to the strains of Schubert's Ave Maria.

Reverend Karen Brau, senior pastor at Luther Place Memorial Church in Washington, read from the Song of Solomon: "For now the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers have appeared in the countryside; the season of singing has come."

When she got to the "sickness and health" part and Mr Bordoy said "I will", the guests giggled.

So did the couple. When he struggled a bit trying to slide the ring over her prosthetic hand, sized bigger to fit her finger, they both laughed.

In her own speech, Ms Llerena, who was the matron of honour, noted that her prayer to God was to "take as much of her as he wanted as long as we got to keep her".

"Thanks a lot!" the bride interjected.

Next week, the couple fly to Mexico for their honeymoon. Then, they will return to their two-storey home in North Potomac, Maryland, which they moved into last week.

Ms Flores' next challenge: tackling stairs. "She's the one who has to remind me that she's not 'normal'," Mr Bordoy said. "I don't see prosthetics. She's just a little different than others."

Said Ms Flores: "There are days he wants to strangle me. The reason I know it's going to last - this being our second marriages - is that we've been through what most marriages face in 30 or 40 years. What a relief to be on this side of the hell we've been through."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 20, 2018, with the headline 'Amputee walks down the aisle'. Print Edition | Subscribe