Married to a miracle
Four days after Jessica Bradley's husband Clayton suffered a stroke the morning of June 9, 2018, the doctors told Jessica he would not survive.
He went into a coma and was put on full life support.
"I was told... to pull the plug on him," Jessica said.
Jessica said the doctors never expected him to breathe, walk or talk ever again on his own. "They said, 'Is that the life you want for your husband?'," Jessica said. "No, that is not the life I want for my husband but I want to give him a chance."
Nearly three months later, Jessica's choice to let him live has led to Clayton waking from his coma, regaining the ability to breathe without a ventilator, attempting to learn how to swallow and seeing his family and friends again.
"From where he was four days in to where he is now, three months in, it's a miracle. He is an absolute miracle," she said.
The stroke was caused by a tear in Clayton's left vertebral artery which resulted in a blood clot in his basilar artery and occipital lobe. He is left with major brain damage to his brain stem and pons. The exact cause of the artery tear is unknown, Jessica said.
"I see little things every day that give me more hope. He laughs at things that only he would know," Jessica said. "He cries when it's sad but he's in there. His eyes light up when visitors come. I just brought our dog Archer in to see him and the minute he (Clayton) saw him, his face just lit up."
It might be months or years before Clayton might be able to do everyday things like brushing his teeth and hair, Jessica said. Right now, Clayton is still unable to speak.
"I just want to hear him talk. I want him to say 'I love you,'" Jessica said.
She has looked to Clayton as her source of strength as he was always strong himself.
Clayton, a Hudson native, had served four years in the United States Marine Corps, was a land surveyor in California, worked as a commercial roofer back home in Wisconsin and was excellent with numbers and mechanics.
About four years prior to his stroke, Clayton survived a head-on crash leaving him disabled and unable to work with back pain.
"He always took pride in being the man of the family. The man of the house provides for his family," Jessica said. "Instead of just letting his life go down the drain (after the car accident) he said, 'I'm going to start buying and selling cars, it's something I love and it's something that I could do.' He always took pride in the fact that he could sell ice to an Eskimo."
Jessica said she hopes that dream can still be fulfilled, though she is not sure when that could be. Right now his future is between his fight and God.
She remembers Clayton always questioning why he was so strong spiritually nearly every day before suffering the stroke. He was adamant in his faith, Jessica said, and it was a big part of his life.
Although there are many uncertainties in the family's situation, Jessica said God is still with her.
"Without God I would have nothing. When I met Clayton, I did not believe in God. Clayton was a Christian," Jessica said. "About three years into our relationship, I was saved. Clayton was there and Clayton was a huge part in that."
It is because of God that Jessica was able to survive the day Clayton suffered his stroke, she said. Some days she still crumbles, but at times she experiences a happiness that brings her to tears. Having her husband still alive with her is something she doesn't take for granted, Jessica said.
On Sept. 21 the couple will have been married for five years. They didn't have a chance to solidify plans for their celebration before Clayton's stroke, but those plans can be postponed, Jessica said.
"It's going to be a tough one. There's nothing I can do other than just be there with him and hold his hand ... Let him know that this is our day and we're going to have five more, ten more (anniversaries). I could be spending our anniversary alone. So I hold onto that."
Clayton has two daughters whom he is proud of: Sara, 16, and Kali, 14, who are his greatest achievements, Jessica said. Clayton has also served as a father figure for his stepson Roy, Jessica's 15-year-old son, for the last nine years.
Along with her immediate family and in-laws, Jessica and Clayton have received support from people in Jessica's hometown of Plum City as well as in Ellsworth where Jessica runs her bar Just Ka's downtown.
Her bartenders have given her assurance that her business can remain open while she is going through this tough time.
"My support system is great, I am absolutely blessed by everyone I have in my life," she said.
Just Ka's bar will be hosting a benefit for the Bradley family on Sept. 22 from noon to 2:30 p.m. The "parking lot party" will have raffles, a silent auction, bottomless tap-beer wristbands and music every hour including a DJ, karaoke and a live performance by Breakneck Delivery.
"What's going to happen in the next three months or the next year? We don't know, I don't know," Jessica said.
"Please don't take life for granted. Everything we know can change in a split second, and we have no control. Live your life to the fullest, love to the extreme, and laugh as much as possible. Cherish every moment along the way."
The Bradley family wants Clayton at a home owned by Jessica's parents Phil and Mary Roberts that is fully handicap accessible by mid-October. Historically run as a bed and breakfast, the home will be opened to the Bradley family so Clayton may receive 24-hour care in hopes of giving him a better quality of life.