He’s a quadriplegic who sustained serious brain damage in a car accident years ago. She’s deaf and also in a wheelchair. But the moment Willie Hayward and Sharmayne Wolmarans met, they fell instantly in love with each other – and now they’re set to get married.
Willie couldn’t stop staring at Sharmayne when he first saw her in August in the dining room of the Interhome Care facility in Roodepoort, Gauteng, says Alice Goosen, Willie’s sister.
“There was suddenly a sparkle in his eyes. One can hardly believe it – you could see his face light up,” Alice says of the moment Willie met Sharmayne.
The car accident Willie was in 20 years ago nearly claimed his life. And though he survived, he’s paralysed and suffered lasting brain damage. He’s never been able to speak or write again.
He moved into the care facility shortly after his father, Fred, died of a heart attack in 2015. Fred had been Willie’s primary caregiver.
“It was always so awful to see our little brother like this – helpless, powerless. He can’t do anything for himself. And then one can’t help but think of how he used to be, how happy he used to be. It breaks your heart,” Alice tells YOU.
“But it’s as if it was destined that he should meet Sharmayne – as if they were sent to each other.”
Ever since the day they met, the two have been inseparable.
“Sharmayne especially requested to sit next to Willie [in the dining room],” says Willie’s brother, Fred Jnr.
“And there was an immediate spark. They started giggling and smiling at each other – and they haven’t stopped since.”
Willie and Sharmayne even have a special way of communicating with each other, Fred adds.
“Willie can’t speak and Sharmayne can’t hear – but that’s not stopping them. Sharmayne will write something down, show it to Willie and he’ll react with hand signals. But sometimes that’s not even necessary. It’s as if she understands him better than anyone. She knows what his needs are – when he’s sad, when he needs something. It’s wonderful.”
They decided they wanted to get married soon after they met, Alice says.
“They want to be husband and wife and we support them all the way,” she says proudly.
The law won’t acknowledge the union, though, because Willie isn’t able to communicate and therefore legally agree to the marriage.
“Really, it’ll just be a celebration of their love for each other – two broken people who found each other. And, together, they’re happy and whole.”