‘Excruciating’ is not a word Maria Roper, of Kanab, wants to hear anytime soon.

It was November 29, 2011, at 1 a.m. when husband Cliff, woke her to say he was having a headache. “He was screaming that it was an excruciating headache. I’d never heard him use that word,” said Maria. “I immediately saw he was pale, but I thought maybe he had the flu. I told him we needed to go to the hospital.”

Cliff had issues with that, but wasn’t feeling well. Maria got the car keys and cellphone, and told him he had two choices, either go with her or she would call 911. She asked him if he could walk, and he responded he didn’t know, but was able to get to the car.

Maria and Cliff drove to Kane County Hospital. Tests were run, the first came out okay. But, after a brain scan, things didn’t look good. There was blood in Cliff’s brain! The decision was quickly made to transport him to Las Vegas.

Cliff didn’t want Maria to go with him, because he remembered a bill he’d left on the table that needed to be paid. “You stay here and take care of things,” he said to his wife of nearly 30 years.

Shocked, scared and upset, Maria tried to move forward. Husband Cliff was in a life-threatening situation, but she had things he wanted done before she could be with him. Maria and Cliff’s two children would meet him in Las Vegas, and would be there with him in the event of surgery.

Close friends Victor and Patricia Sandonato drove Maria to Las Vegas early in the afternoon.

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Cliff Roper grew up in Vernal, UT, the youngest of seven. He  worked for Energy Fuels, and they offered him a transfer, which brought him to Kanab. After the company closed, he worked for Grand Canyon Expeditions for 20 years prior to his health crisis. 

He met future wife Maria when she traveled to the U.S. many years before. “I went to Brazil, with the intent of bringing her back, and that’s what I did,” siad Cliff.

Life was good, and they raised two children – Angela and Eric.

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The surgery at 3 p.m. of the same day to fix the three-headed complex aneurysm on the right side of Cliff’s brain was nearly complete when Maria arrived from Kanab. The surgeon had opened Cliff’s skull and inserted three titanium clips at the site of the ruptures. The surgeon was unsure of the outcome of the four hour surgery. Cliff’s life was precarious and entirely in the hands of God.

“She talked to us,” said Maria, of the surgeon. “She was surprised that he had made it through the surgery. There was so much bleeding. We didn’t know the outcome.”

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“When he first woke up and was able to talk, he could not understand why he was in a hospital. He wanted to go to work,” said Maria.

Ventilators, transfusions, induced comas, with accompanying tubes everywhere, had quickly become Cliff Roper’s new life. Maria and their children were by his side 24/7. No one really knew what the surgery’s outcome or how Cliff would be when he awoke, they just loved and supported him, and acted as his advocate.

During his recovery, Roper was transferred to another hospital, and later another. After a surgery such as his, the chances of a stroke occurring are very high ... and unfortunately, two weeks later that happened as well. Roper had two strokes on the opposite side of the brain from the aneurysm.

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“He could not move,” recalled Maria, concerning the latter trauma. “They were talking to him and giving him orders...and nothing, there was no response.”

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After he began recovering from the strokes, Cliff Roper surprised everyone with his communication skills. But in Portuguese? While Maria and Cliff say that he knew the language when trying to woo Maria and her parents, it wasn’t something he was confident in. Cliff was communicating very well in a different language than his primary one and his message was getting across.

Cliff relates that his first memory after the strokes was that he was extremely cold. “I was so cold,” Cliff said. “The therapists told me this was normal. As I started to become aware of my surroundings, my thoughts seemed to be way in the past. I could not even write my name, but through the therapy, I was able to come back. It took me some time to remember the here and now. I again thought of the bill left on the table, and asked Maria about it.”

Maria said, “Short term memory wasn’t there yet. But when he asked about the bill on the table, I knew that he had some recollection.”

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Do you believe in miracles? Cliff Roper has been the poster person for a human defying life’s obstacles! When everything went against him, he has triumphed.

All Cliff Roper’s cognitive faculties are great. (Don’t debate him on anything, I’m thinking he’d win!) He has gone from bedridden, totally dependent and not walking, to a wheelchair. Next came the walker, which he said provided a lot of balance. But most recently, he’s graduated to a cane! “When my therapist  gave me this, I was so scared!” said Cliff.

Like most things that have happened in the past 10 months, Cliff is amazing everyone with his drive and positive attitude. If you go out in the Ranchos, you’ll see him circling the block he lives on for exercise.

The Ropers are appreciative of the great friendship and support many people have shown them during his extended hospital stay. Now, during his recovery, Cliff is specially thankful for those who volunteered their time to make his life brighter by visiting him on a daily basis, and those who walk with him every morning.

They would like to express their gratitude for all the prayers from many people of different faiths in Kanab, other states and countries. Miracles do happen, Cliff is a living proof!

Roper said his frustration lies in that he’s not going to be able to return to his ‘normal’ life that he had before. “It’s just not going to be the same,” said Cliff.

“There’s not a single day that goes by that Cliff doesn’t express his love and appreciation for me,” said Maria, about the recovery.  “He doesn’t complain. He thanks me constantly. He’s so appreciative. What a wonderful thing.”

But what’s important about this story is that Cliff and Maria Roper have come nearly full circle in their 10 month trauma and have never given up! They both say that they’ve had a terrific life, and now they’re starting a different, but new chapter.

As they celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary on September 29, they have a renewed appreciation for life and each other.