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Nikki Milton and Daniel Rosen rise above the lows to reach the highs
In June 2006, Milton was in South Africa on business when she received a message from Rosen's mother. He'd had a seizure while driving and got into an accident. Doctors thought it was an anomaly, until he had a second one and then a third. Eventually, he was having seizures every two or three days, some mild, some violent. Later that summer, Milton woke from a nap to find Rosen foaming at the mouth with his eyes rolled back in his head.
"The randomness of the seizures created a kind of havoc" in their lives, Milton says. For the next three years, she would take on a caregiver role -- answering calls from emergency room personnel, chauffeuring Rosen to each doctor's appointment, voicing frustrations that he was too reserved to utter. Doctors were confounded and tested various medications that caused Rosen to suffer significant memory loss.
Milton's family questioned whether she was staying with him because he was sick, but in fact, she says, the turmoil made her realize how much she valued the relationship. "I didn't want to treat it so cavalierly anymore," she says. "I wasn't there because he was sick, and I wasn't gonna leave because he was sick. I wanted to be with him and I wanted him back."
The relationship had deepened. And after spending a great deal of time with Milton's youngest sister, who was born just as the two started dating, he decided he wanted to have children. "I slowly realized that we could handle it, and that it'd be a good thing to have our own kids and a family," he says.
In December 2008, Rosen proposed at a rose petal-strewn table in the Hotel Palomar.
But wedding planning was put off as he grew sicker. The next summer he spent nearly a week in the intensive care unit and was unable to work for six weeks. Medications eventually stopped his seizures, but other scans showed that there were still problems. He was found to have a condition that causes extreme pressure on the brain -- not uncommon in little people during adolescence, but rare in adults like Rosen, who's now 40. In July the pressure became so intense that part of his brain matter broke through his skull.
Doctors decided to put a shunt in Rosen's brain, allowing fluid to move more freely; though he's still on anti-seizure medications, his symptoms are now largely gone.
On Oct. 23 -- having done, as Milton puts it, the "in sickness part" -- the couple returned to the Hotel Palomar, this time to wed before 96 friends and family members. After the ceremony Rosen stepped on a glass to honor his Jewish heritage. During cocktail hour a blues band entertained guests.
"There's a thousand reasons why he shouldn't want to be with me and there's a thousand reasons why I shouldn't want to be with him -- on paper. But none of those things matter. They become nonexistent when we're together," says Milton, now 37. "Every day I'm happy to see him. Every time he walks into a room, I'm happy to see him."
"Yeah," he agrees. "We really love being with one another."