A Quadruple Amputee’s First Vow: To Walk Down the Aisle

Amanda Flores and Frank Bordoy after their wedding at Luther Place Memorial Church in Washington. About a year and a half after they met, an illness led to the amputation of Ms. Flores’s arms and legs.

It was April 2013 when Frank Bordoy first spotted Amanda Flores at Clyde’s, a bar and restaurant in Alexandria, Va. With her dark hair, runner’s body and quick laugh, he found her adorable.

Or to be more accurate, he thought, “Damn, who’s this fine looking woman over there?”

But Ms. Flores was chatting with another guy, and Mr. Bordoy wasn’t sure if the two of them were together or not. They weren’t. In fact, Ms. Flores had noticed Mr. Bordoy, too. How could she not? He was dark and so cute — “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. It was totally superficial.”

Mr. Bordoy sidled over and began talking. He and Ms. Flores quickly discovered similarities: She grew up in Silver Spring, Md., with a Mexican mother and Ecuadorean father. He was from Danbury, Conn., by way of Puerto Rico. She worked in marketing and advertising at Geico; Mr. Bordoy, a former Marine, had moved to the area to attend the police academy. Both were divorced, with two children younger than seven. Both were stubborn, liked to cook, and had similar senses of humor.

“He was a sweetheart and easy to talk to,” Ms. Flores said. “He’s also a pain in the butt and has a twisted humor and take on life.”

Drinks morphed into dinner, and dinner turned into dating. They tried to take it slow, but things progressed rapidly. In June, she told him she loved him; two months later, he repeated the sentiment. By April 2014, he had moved in to her Silver Spring, Md., house with her and her sons, TJ, now 9, and Andy, now 6 (his children, Francisco, 10, and Adalena, 7, 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.”

And then.

In late November 2014, Ms. Flores 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 Ms. Flores’s 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 Ms. Flores had strep throat, which was not diagnosed and 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, of Adelphi, Md.

Ms. Llerena 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 Center 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 the surgeon saying. “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.

“He never let on,” said Jose Gonzalez, a friend on the force who rides motorcycles with Mr. Bordoy.

Despite his stoicism, her family wanted to let him know that they didn’t expect him to stay.

“This was a dramatic change for their life,” said her mother, Beatriz Flores, who immigrated from Mexico to the United States in 1959 as a 6-year-old. “Here she was, a beautiful young lady that loved to go dancing. When she went to family parties she was almost always the center of attention because she’s so beautiful and loved to dance. Frank is really young and we didn’t know if he was going to stick around with her.”

So one afternoon Ms. Llerena and her brother, Marcelo Flores Jr., and their spouses decided to broach the subject. They sat down with Mr. Bordoy and told him, quite clearly, that they understood if he didn’t feel up to the task. They had been together only a year and a half 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 do it’s O.K., no hard feelings.”

But Mr. Bordoy wasn’t 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.’”

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Amanda Flores and Frank Bordoy walking into their wedding reception.CreditCredit...Lawrence Jackson for The New York Times

This didn’t surprise his friends; it’s exactly the sort of man he is.

“He’s a bullet. He’s very strong,” said Cheryl Clark, a former co-worker of Mr. Bordoy’s who had become close to Ms. Flores. She recalled a minor surgery she had years earlier, and how Mr. Bordoy had stayed with her before and after.

His brother, Gabriel Bordoy, 36, a business owner in Danbury, agreed. “He’ll do anything for anybody,” he said. “He’ll be the first to help out.”

Ms. Flores slipped in and out of unconsciousness, finally fully coming out of it in February. That’s when she learned that both of her legs were amputated above the knee, and her arms below the elbow. It didn’t quite make sense. “I couldn’t realize 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.

Ms. Flores immediately said yes, with a caveat: She was only going to marry him if she could walk down the aisle. Many amputees, she learned, never made it out of a wheelchair. Not her.

Mr. Bordoy didn’t doubt she would do it. “Once she sets her mind on something, nothing’s going to stop her,” he said. “Hell hath no fury.”

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 couldn’t move her neck; it took three people to sit her up. “You have no energy,” she said.

But she didn’t act on those impulses, she said, because of her kids. “I do a lot of mentoring for amputees and I say, you have to let the darkness set in in order to find your fire,” Ms. Flores said. “We all have to mourn our former selves, not only the loss of the limbs but the loss of the woman.”

It was also challenging for her kids. Once, she recalled, her youngest son, who’s equally stubborn, began mouthing off. She told him to take a time out. He said, “Mommy, how are you going to put me in time out — you don’t have arms or legs!”

“I wasn’t used to people being that blunt,” Ms. Flores recalled with a laugh. Within a second, she hopped off the couch and onto her stumps, hobbled over to him and pinned him down.

“In my best WWF move, I crawled on top of him and held him down like a wrestler,” she said. “I said, ‘Now I’m going to make sure you stay in one spot.’ It registered that Mommy was still in there.”

Slowly, she learned to use prosthetics, practicing first on “stubbies,” as she calls 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.

On Saturday, Aug. 11, Ms. Flores 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.”

The officiant, the Rev. Karen Brau, the 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 Ms. Brau 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.

Later, at the reception at the Washington Plaza Hotel, they took their first dance to John Legend’s “All of Me.” Mr. Bordoy serenaded her as they swayed to the music. “Love your curves and all your edges,” he said, running a hand over her waist and hips. When he sang, “All your perfect imperfections,” he pointed to her prosthetic arm, then he smiled and kissed her.

The man who designed her limbs, Kevin Carroll, vice president of prosthetics at the Hanger Clinic, in Orlando, snapped photo after photo with an iPhone. “The first time I met Amanda she was in her wheelchair,” he recalled. “Instantly I knew she could do it, just by her spirit, and also by the spirit of Frank. It’s a privilege and honor to be here.”

In her own speech, Ms. Llerena, who was the matron of honor, noted that her prayer to God was “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 flies to Mexico for their honeymoon. Then they will return to their two-story home in North Potomac, Md., which they moved into earlier last week. Ms. Flores’s next challenge: Tackling stairs.

“She’s the one that 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.”

“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,” Ms. Flores said. “What a relief to be on this side of the hell we’ve been through.”

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