Now, Bandy is back at work as a manager for a physical therapy clinic working with patients.
“Living day to day, I didn’t realize what I had lost until years later,” he said. “I have had to accept that I am a different person. But I have no regrets going through the surgery. ... I am one of the few to survive –- 10 years –- and I am fortunate to be alive.”
But his wife said Bandy “can’t multitask in the same way. He can ask specific questions, but he is not drawn into conversation.”
This, she confides, is one of the most difficult hurdles in their new marriage. "All of my attraction was tied to his verbal loquaciousness. It was the magnet. All of this affect of his personality drew me to him."
His recovery was "three times as long" as Lea expected. And in the end, "You are in a relationship with someone you don't know if you actually will remain attracted to."
Lea also became the caregiver, which presented its own challenges in their sexual relationship.
When the children, now 30 and 27, called home from college, Lea said she put index cards in front of Bandy that prompted him to ask, "How was your day today?"
On dates, she would ask him to prepare on a topic so they could have conversations. "It doesn't come naturally to him," she said.
And in the bedroom, she had to become "more masculine" and initiate their sexual encounters, telling him what she wanted.
"In someone with a brain injury it has to be done a thousand times," she said.
For two years, the couple traveled, living in France and India, helping them to reshape their relationship. "He had to negotiate a different language and driving skills and cope with a different culture which made him move up a level," she said.
Bandy agrees the couple worked hard to make their new relationship work. “I would say our perseverance is probably one of the things I remember most over the last six or eight years.”
Now, the sex is "great" largely because of their journey together, said Lea.
"I fell in love with a man who is not the man I am living with now," she said. "I had to grieve the loss of that man. And that is the surprising part. I had to wait around and see if I could fall in love with a new man.
"It was dicey," she said, "but it did happen."