Artist reveals late husband surprised her with Valentine's Day wedding

Artist, 38, whose husband was diagnosed with ALS months after he surprised her with a Valentine’s Day wedding when she was pregnant is spending her first as a widow by spreading love to people in lockdown

  • Amy Broch, 38, from London, lost California-born Sean, 59, to ALS in May 2020
  • Couple met on blind date in February 2015, married on Valentine’s Day in 2018
  • When Amy was pregnant, Sean was diagnosed with aggressive bulbar onset
  • She kept his spirits alive with bright art installations at their home – and she’s spending this Valentine’s Day by bringing her work to people in lockdown 

An artist whose late husband surprised her with a wedding on Valentine’s Day months before he was diagnosed with ALS is spending her first as a widow by spreading love to people in lockdown.

Amy Broch, 38, from London, lost California-born Sean, 59, to the crippling disease in May last year, after caring for him full-time during the pandemic.

The couple met on a blind date in London in February 2015, where it was ‘love at first sight for Sean’, who popped the question in 2017. They underwent IVF to conceive their daughter Minty in 2018, and when Amy was six weeks pregnant Sean surprised her on February 14 with a wedding while on holiday in New Zealand.

Tragically, just months after their special day, Sean – who was CEO of AMG, an American international investment management company – was diagnosed with aggressive bulbar onset amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also referred to as motor neurone disease.

Amy Broch, 38, from London, was surprised with a wedding on Valentine’s Day in New Zealand by her late husband Sean (pictured)

Tragically, just months after their special day, Sean – who was CEO of AMG, an American international investment management company – was diagnosed with aggressive bulbar onset amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also referred to as motor neurone disease

Having started in his mouth, his condition progressed rapidly, confining him to a wheelchair in the final six months of his life.

Amy, who is the artist behind JOY Bomb London, an interactive pop-up art installation which currently occupies the window of 48 Brook Street in Mayfair, told how she brought her work to their homes in London and Florida, which helped cheer Sean and keep his spirits alive.

To honour their relationship this Valentine’s Day, her first without him, Amy is taking JOY Bomb on the road with a digital van bearing a digital message board sharing love letters, videos and romantic messages to cheer up people who are confined to their homes in the capital. 

On its route, the van will stop off at hospitals to pay tribute to NHS workers and patients, as well as housing estates and parks.

Amy is the artist behind JOY Bomb London, an interactive pop-up art installation which currently occupies the window of 48 Brook Street in Mayfair

Sean stepped down as CEO of the company he’d spent 30 years building after his diagnosis, and the couple (pictured on their wedding day) made the most of their time left by travelling and enjoying their little girl

‘We all need a bit of self care at the moment,’ Amy told FEMAIL. ‘Hopefully anyone who sees this little love bomb explosion will get a little spark of joy this rather grim Valentine’s Day weekend.’

WHAT IS AMYOTROPHIC LATERAL SCLEROSIS? 

ALS is an acronym for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

It is also referred to as motor neurone disease, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease after the US baseball player when he was diagnosed in 1939 at just 36 years old.

The disease is a rare condition that progressively damages parts of the nervous system.

It occurs when specialist nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord called motor neurones stop working properly – known as neurodegeneration.

Life expectancy for about half of those with the condition is three years from the start of symptoms.

However, some people may live for up to 10 years, and in rarer circumstances even longer.

The condition can affect adults of all ages, including teenagers, although this is extremely rare.

It’s usually diagnosed in people over 40, but most people with the condition first develop symptoms in their 60s. It affects slightly more men than women.

There’s currently no cure for motor neurone disease.

Treatment aims to make the person feel comfortable and have the best quality of life possible

It also tries to compensate for the progressive loss of bodily functions such as mobility, communication, swallowing and breathing. 

Amy told how her creative projects have helped keep her going while she grieves for Sean.

‘He was very romantic,’ she said. ‘Valentine’s Day is my favourite holiday, and we always planned ridiculous things to make each other smile.’

‘When I was six weeks pregnant we were on trip in New Zealand, and it was Valentine’s Day and he surprised me with a wedding. 

‘I woke up and was like, “What are we doing today?” and he said, “We’re getting married!” He’d planned the flowers, the make-up, the hair. Luckily I had a dress with me but it was covered in cats, so it was a bit of an unusual wedding dress. I’d bought it in a sale on a whim, so it was meant to be.

‘He’d proposed the year before, and we went up in a helicopter and got married on top of a mountain. 

‘I was suffering from extreme morning sickness, so although it’s meant to be the happiness day of your life, and it was, I also wanted to vomit at every turn! But when I saw the incredible photos I was like, oh my God, it’s like some kind of witchcraft.’

Last year Amy told how she surprised Sean by hiring four real-life mermaids.

‘Sean was a CEO and had offices in London and Florida, so we lived between the two, and last year we were in Florida, so we were lucky enough to have a pool,’ she said.

‘He loved mermaids, so I hired four real life mermaids and they were swimming around in the pool when he woke up!’

Sean’s ALS diagnosis came ‘totally out of the blue’ for the couple, who were expecting their first child.

‘He got diagnosed very early on in his illness because he was very in-tune with his body,’ Amy explained.

‘He had the bulbar onset which is the most aggressive, it starts in your mouth. Because he had to do a lot of speaking as CEO, he noticed early on his tongue didn’t feel right. 

‘Initially he was checked for acid reflux and things like that, but the eventual diagnosis was ALS, which neither of us knew much about aside from the Ice Bucket Challenge which was to raise money for it. It was a really tough time, plus obviously I had the extreme morning sickness to contend with.’

‘There was something almost poetic in the fact Sean’s life was ending and Minty’s life was beginning. I think the fact we had Minty was actually a bit of a saviour and prolonged his life in a way, because a baby brings so much joy, everyone had something wonderful to focus on. It was a beautiful remedy in a way.’

Amy told how her creative projects have helped keep her going while she grieves for Sean (pictured together with Minty)

Last Valentine’s Day Amy told how she surprised Sean by hiring four real-life mermaids

Amy told how the first doctor they saw was ‘very blunt’ and simply told Sean to ‘get his affairs in order and live every day like it was his last’.

The second was more hopeful and helped him gain access to trial drugs and treatments around the world to help prolong his life. 

Together they founded the Sean M. Healey and AMG Center for ALS at Massachuesetts General Hospital, which is dedicated to finding life-saving therapies for people affected by the condition. 

Sean stepped down as CEO of the company he’d spent 30 years building, and the couple made the most of their time left by travelling and enjoying their little girl. 

Amy said it was her ‘destiny’ to meet Sean and look after him when he needed someone, and have Minty who is like a miniature version of him

Amy brought her bright, colourful work to their homes in London and Florida, which helped cheer Sean and keep his spirits alive

Amy said their daughter Minty, conceived through IVF, helped to prolong Sean’s life by bringing him joy

Amy recalled: ‘He was fairly steady for a while, the ALS just affected his voice and some movements, but in the last six to eight months of his life he really progressed rapidly.

‘He ended up in wheelchair, then we had the pandemic, so we couldn’t make any hospital visits and we had to get rid of our home help, so the family had to gather round to take care of him. I was showering him, feeding him; it was a very intense time.

‘It’s such a tragedy but I also view it as a sort of privilege as well. I’ve never been, “why me, why us”, but Sean was the type of person who looked after everyone else throughout his whole life – his family, his friends. 

Today would have been Amy and Sean’s third wedding anniversary, and Amy said the JOY Bomb London van is ‘the ultimate way to honour our relationship and our love’

‘He was the fixer, the doer, so to move on in my life, I think it was my destiny to meet him and look after him, when he needed someone, and have Minty who is like a miniature version of him.’ 

Today would have been Amy and Sean’s third wedding anniversary, and Amy said the JOY Bomb London van is ‘the ultimate way to honour our relationship and our love’. 

‘I know he’d be highly entertained and very proud,’ she said.

To find out more, visit https://www.illuminateproductions.co.uk/joy-bomb-london 

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