Tara and David DeGrace live in New Hampshire with their adorable twins, Jack and Lila, who just turned one on Christmas Day.
Their story is a true love story. The kind of love other love stories aspire to be. The kind of love that conquered insurmountable odds and after many years of crossing paths and being in and out of each other’s lives… finally, they were both all in.
This past Feb. 1, Tara and David celebrated the 10th anniversary of a very special day. They’ve been married for a few years, but it’s not that kind of anniversary. To fully understand, a little more background on how their love came to be is required.
Their story starts at the University of New Hampshire, where they weren’t sweethearts – just acquaintances in the same classes and social circles. They graduated together in 2006, never expecting to see each other again.
Not quite a year later, on Feb. 1, 2007, David suffered a severe head trauma. After falling from a second story balcony, he landed with full impact directly on his forehead. He was airlifted to a nearby hospital where Dr. Dong Kim, renowned neurosurgeon who is now director of the Memorial Hermann Mischer Neuroscience Institute at the Texas Medical Center and Professor and Chair of the Vivian L. Smith Department of Neurosurgery at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, would perform emergency surgery on him and save his life.
And that’s where Tara will tell you their love first took root. Right there in David’s hospital room. As luck would have it, Tara’s best friend and roommate at the time worked at the hospital, and was one of David’s nurses in the neuro ICU. Knowing that Tara and David were friends from college, she let Tara know when David was coming out of his coma, in case she wanted to visit. So she did because, as she will tell you, “That’s what friends do.” During her visit, they shared a few laughs, she brightened his spirits – even met his parents – but when she left, just as before, they never expected to see each other again. Life continued on.
Fast-forward to 2014: Tara was going through a very difficult divorce. David reached out to his long-lost friend just to say hello, but as soon as he heard about her situation, he immediately offered to be there for her in case she needed a shoulder to cry on, jokes to laugh at or someone to talk to. Because, as he will tell you, “That’s what friends do.”
As she would later learn, Tara was one of just 13 people who visited David during his extended stay in the hospital. And she had no idea how much her visit that dreary February day seven years ago had meant to David. But he never forgot it and loved her from that moment on.
Once they reconnected for the third time, that was it. The love and respect they had for each other as friends turned into a deeper love that bloomed very quickly. They were soon married and Tara gave birth to their beautiful twins on Dec. 25, 2015.
They are now living their happily ever after, in a quiet New Hampshire town, as a healthy family of four. And every Feb. 1, they celebrate their anniversary. Not the anniversary of the day they got married, but rather the anniversary of the day that – as awful as it may have been – changed the path of both of their lives for the better. So instead, they choose to celebrate Feb. 1 because, as they see it, had David’s accident not happened, they might not have been brought back into each other’s lives. They might not have the unconditional love they share today. They might not have Jack and Lila. And for all of those things, and so many others, David and Tara are thankful. And especially thankful for Dr. Kim.
Tara decided to send an email to Dr. Kim’s assistant, hoping it might find its way into the inbox of the man himself. Letting him know just how thankful they are, and also requesting one final favor on behalf of his former patient… here is an excerpt from her email:
“Hello, I’m hoping you can pass along a message to Dr. Kim on behalf of myself, and my husband David…. David brags about how he had the top neurosurgeon in the country, if not the world, operate on him that day…. Not only did Dr. Kim save his life, but David has been able to almost completely recover from a massive brain injury. (He still forgets to zipper his pants sometimes… blames it on TBI 🙂 ) [Editor’s note: TBI is a traumatic brain injury.] Every year on Feb. 1, we all celebrate David’s re-birth. It’s a special reminder to us all to be so incredibly thankful for our health, our lives and especially for David… and we always give special thanks and a toast to Dr. Kim as well. I am so extremely grateful to Dr. Kim. David is my soul mate, the person I am supposed to spend my life with. I can’t explain why or how I know this, except that the universe is always showing me funny coincidences that prove it. This year’s re-birth celebration is the 10th anniversary, a milestone for David and a very special time for all of us. I know that you and Dr. Kim are most definitely extremely busy, but I’m hoping you can pass this thank you note along to him and, if possible, a note back from Dr. Kim that I can share with David on Feb. 1. I can pretty much guarantee that a note from Dr. Kim would bring my 6’4”, 275-pound husband to tears. Thank you so much for your time, and for reading our story. Cheers, Tara”
Tara’s email did find its way to Dr. Kim, and he was deeply touched by their story. He responded with his own letter to the couple:
On Feb. 1, Tara surprised David with the letter, making the day that much more special for the couple.
Memorial Hermann would like to wish a very happy Valentine’s Day – and a happy belated anniversary – to the DeGraces, and to all the loving couples across the country! And if you’re still wondering what to give your sweetie for a special gift today, be sure to try this heart-healthy chocolate chip cookie recipe.