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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Marriage Strengthened By Troubles - Las Vegas Valley Couple


When Henderson couple Eddie and Antoinette Garcia married 13 years ago, they became husband and wife. However, when Eddie’s limbs were amputated because of an illness, the couple not only re-learned their roles as husband and wife, they also became a man with no hands or feet and a caretaker.

Although they consider each challenge temporary, it’s clear their love is permanent.

“In the beginning, it was very hard,” Antoinette said. “He would get upset, or I would get upset, and I would be like, ‘You know what? We have to remember that this is temporary. Everything is temporary. You’re going to learn how to do this. We’re going to learn how to do this.’ ”

The couple’s love story began as acquaintances in elementary school when Antoinette’s mother would take her, Eddie and his brother to school. It wasn’t until high school that a friendship developed, and they began attending school games, going out to eat and talking on the phone together.

“I still remember my mom knocking on the door at 3 a.m. telling me to cut it off, so we had to sneak the phone calls late at night,” Eddie said. “We just continued our friendship, and we talked about anything and everything or sometimes nothing at all.”

After a few years of “officially dating,” Antoinette went shopping, put down a deposit on an engagement ring and called Eddie, who was home watching a football game.

“There was no proposal,” Antoinette said. “It was, ‘We’re getting married. Do you want a say in it or not?’ ”

The Garcias married Aug. 16, 2001, on a beach in Hawaii. Eddie said he contemplated filing for a divorce a few months later when Antoinette had “extreme mood swings” during a family trip. He was unaware that she was pregnant.

“I was so embarrassed. I thought she had just lost it, and we were going to have to get a divorce and move on,” Eddie said. “When she told me she was pregnant, all those feelings immediately disappeared. There was no doubt. I understood.”

After the birth of daughter Haley, the couple had four miscarriages while trying for a second child.

Looking for a fresh start in Southern California, they tried to purchase an investment home in Las Vegas, but the loan required that they live and work in the valley.

Desperate to provide for his family, Eddie moved to the valley on a whim to live in the house and work as a teacher for the Clark County School District. Antoinette joined Eddie after a year and became pregnant with son Ryan; however, the couple lost their house during the recession.

While teaching at Canyon Springs High School, Eddie fell ill with what he thought was strep throat. Within days, Eddie’s internal organs began to fail, so doctors placed him in a medically induced coma. The medications used to save his organs caused poor circulation in his hands and feet, forcing doctors to amputate them.

“After the surgeries, I told (Antoinette) that I understood if she wanted to leave me, but she just looked at me like I was crazy,” Eddie said. “She didn’t even hesitate. She just said, ‘No, we’re in this together.’ ”

Once discharged from the hospital, Antoinette became the hands and feet of the relationship by helping Eddie shower, get dressed and put on his prosthetic legs.

“There’s no room for an ego in our relationship. None at all,” Antoinette said. “Even though we still have them, we try not to because he needs to tell me what he needs, and I need to do it. If he needs ice in his water, I need to put ice in his water. It’s not a simple request; it’s a meaningful request for him.”

Although Antoinette is sympathetic to Eddie’s disability, he said she does not cater to him.

“One of my favorite stories from the hospital is when I had just had my hands amputated, and I wanted a drink of water,” Eddie said.

“I could have technically reached over and got a sip with the straw, but I tried to be a big baby about it. … She looked at me and she goes, ‘No sympathy; you can get it. Get it.’ After that, I knew I was going to be fine.”

From cooking to coaching sports, the Garcias have adapted back to their active lifestyle and learned to remain positive.

“When things get tough, the easy thing to do is give up, but we just keep battling things together as they come,” Eddie said. “Our journey together is not over. It’s just beginning.”

— Caitlyn Belcher, Henderson View staff writer

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