Chatham County newlyweds find love through tragedy

Chatham County newlyweds find love through tragedy

CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - Finding love through tragedy. That’s what happened for one newlywed couple.

Tara MacInnes grew up knowing what she wanted to do in life: become a Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer. After suffering a stroke as a child and later being diagnosed with the rare disease moyamoya, that wasn’t a possibility.

Struggling with what to do with her career and in need of a feel-good story, she googled two phrases: “Coast Guard” and “Stroke survivor."

To understand how the MacInnes’ came to be a couple, you have to understand their circumstances. Tara was diagnosed with a rare neurological disease at age 17. She recently had her 15-year anniversary for her brain surgery on June 2.

Sean suffered a stroke caused by a golf ball sized aneurysm at age 23, leading to an early retirement from the U.S. Coast Guard.

She called her random Facebook message to Sean after finding his story ‘a leap of faith.’

“I hesitated about sending him a friend request, because I was like, ‘I don’t know how he is going to think of this,’ and then at the same time, I was like, 'heck, this is a person I don’t know. If he doesn’t accept the friend request, no harm, no foul, it’s not a tremendous loss to me," Tara said.

Fortunately for both of them, he did respond to the message.

“Hey, I’m walking into work. I definitely would love to chat a little later if, you know, possible.”

Facebook messages turned to phone conversations, which led to them meeting, and eventually dating.

They were married on May 4 - the first Saturday of Stoke Awareness Month. Sean walked down the aisle in his Coast Guard uniform.

“I absolutely loved putting the uniform back on, and I still do feel very connected," Sean said.

Having a stroke was devastating for each of them, but in a way, they are thankful for their paths.

“At first, I never wanted the stroke to ever be a thought in my mind that it ever happened to me, and now I feel that if I had never had the stroke, I never would have met Tara and never really would have had it help us be able to fall in love.”

Sean and Tara have an understanding of what the other goes through on a daily basis, and they are passionate about raising awareness and helping others.

Tara’s diagnosis led her to a career in mental health, trying to help others heal.

“My family and I had everything I needed medically, but we recognized that there was a lack as far as our mental health need and our emotional health needs, that was completely absent.”

Sean’s diagnosis led to a career in physical therapy - to help others the same way he was helped - in the long-term care facility in Savannah where he once was.

“I feel really confident and comfortable there, and I love being able to walk in to a patient’s room and help them to be able to tell them I’ve been here, done that, and the only way we’re going to get better is if we keep trying.”

After two-and-a-half years of long-distance, after the wedding, Tara relocated to Wilmington Island - where Sean grew up - and they’re adjusting to married life just like any other couple.

“The first time I think kind of startled her when I woke up and like jumped out of bed to to turn off my alarm," he laughed.

“Very much so. He is excellent about putting the toilet lid down though, so I wouldn’t trade that for anything,” Tara said.

If you’re interested in learning more about heart and stroke conditions, click here.

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