Andrew and Kristy Mackenzie were heading home from a family celebration on Father's Day in June when a car collided with his motorcycle — a near-fatal accident that sent both of them to the ER. When the 58-year-old Virginia man awoke from the traumatic event in a hospital bed, his wife of 37 years realized they were living yet another nightmare: he thought it was 1993.
"He knew me, but I could see him looking through me," Kristy, 54, tells PEOPLE. "I tell you, that's the scariest day of my life. Seeing him look through me like that, I didn't know how I was going to get him back."
Even doctors weren't sure if his memories of their last 29 years together were forever gone. Little did Kristy know that her husband would not only recover, but they'd fall in love all over again, culminating in the couple renewing their vows in front of their children and grandchildren in North Carolina's Outer Banks on Aug. 29.
It was a dream come true for Kristy, who had one thought on her mind as she laid in her hospital bed after the accident, unaware of her husband's alarming condition: "I want to marry this man again."
The couple, who first tied the knot in 1985, credit their love with keeping them alive — and giving them a reason to live.
"I don't think anything can stop us," Kristy says. "Even a car hitting us didn't stop our love."
Rachel & Diana Saddlemire Kristy and Andrew Mackenzie
Andrew and Kristy's Early Days
It's an unwavering connection that began in June 1984, when 16-year-old Kristy saw 19-year-old Andrew during a camping trip in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
"When I met this man, I knew he was the one," Kristy says.
At first, a romance between them seemed impossible. Kristy had a boyfriend, while Andrew was in the Army and stationed at nearby Fort Bragg. But he came home to Harrisonburg on the weekends, about 10 miles away from where she lived. By August, Kristy's boyfriend was history, and she and Andrew were dating.
"She didn't just melt my knees — it was my whole body," says Andrew. "I was done."
courtesy of Andrew and Kristy MacKenzie Kristy and Andrew MacKenzie when they first started dating
A short time later, Andrew got orders to move to Germany. Although they hadn't been dating long, he proposed. "There was nobody else for me," he says.
"He didn't want to leave me," Kristy adds, "and I didn't want him to leave me."
Just under a year after they first met, they tied the knot on March 31, 1985, when she was a high school junior. She took her exams early before joining him in Europe, where she attended her senior year on a military base.
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Their Daughters Jokingly Call Them "Gross"
Almost 38 years and two adult children later — Kristy and Andrew share daughters Lorelai, 31, and Amanda, 30 — their love and passion for each other is as strong as ever.
"Our daughters say we're gross because everywhere we are, I'll kiss him or he'll kiss me," Kristy says. "We're holding hands everywhere."
"I totally melt in his arms," she adds. "I remember my sister telling me years ago that it'll wear off." She insists it hasn't. "I can promise you that," she says.
Father's Day Goes Horribly Wrong
Their love story took a shocking turn on June 19, when the couple got together with their youngest daughter and her family in Grottoes, Virginia, to celebrate Father's Day with a four-wheeler ride and quality time. After the fun wrapped up around 3:30 p.m., the couple mounted Andrew's motorcycle to ride home. Kristy turned to wave to her daughter and granddaughter. That's the last thing they remember before the crash that changed their lives.
courtesy of Andrew and Kristy MacKenzie Kristy and Andrew MacKenzie
The Mackenzies say that authorities told them a driver ran a stop sign. After the impact, a witness told their daughter, the couple was thrown about 60 feet.
"I don't know how we could have survived it," Andrew says. "I can't imagine us going that far in the air and being able to survive."
They both suffered extensive injuries. Andrew had a concussion and broke two T-vertebrae in his back, his left pelvis bone, his left scapula, five ribs and his nose. He was airlifted to UVA University Hospital in Charlottesville, where he needed to undergo emergency surgery for internal bleeding and get two screws placed in his hip.
Meanwhile, Kristy had a mild concussion; broke her back, hip, seven ribs, and her left scapula; and suffered shoulder damage. Fortunately, her injuries didn't require surgery, and she was first sent to a local hospital.
As soon as hospital employees removed Kristy's breathing tube, she says, the alarmed wife asked to see her husband. Her request was granted.
"All I wanted was to be with him and see him," she says.
courtesy of Andrew and Kristy MacKenzie Kristy and Andrew MacKenzie
29 Years Disappear
When Andrew woke up in the hospital, the nurse asked him to say his name and the current month and year. He said it was 1993.
Although the couple had "been through so many things" over the years — Kristy had a stroke when she was only 17, her mother died of breast cancer and Andrew battled prostate cancer in 2016 — the crash was the worst, she says.
As soon as Kristy was allowed out of bed, she sat with Andrew in his room.
"They said we couldn't room together and I begged them and begged them," she says. "Just sitting and holding his hand was better for both of us."
"I never would've made it without her," Andrew says. "I've always said, 'You've got to have a purpose and hope in life.' And for me, the love of my life is Kristy, but also, I go to work to provide and make things better for our kids and grandkids. I've got hope and purpose."
A Miracle in the Hospital
When Andrew was moved out of the ICU, hospital staff finally relented and put the couple in the same hospital room. But Kristy cried because the beds were too far apart. While lying in her bed, she couldn't see him. So nurses tied back the curtains, moved the beds closer together and placed chairs side-by-side so they could sit together.
"I just wanted to be beside him," she says. "We even had a 'Do Not Disturb' sign that a nurse made — just to mess with our daughters."
After they were allowed to move into the same room, his memory miraculously came back.
"Everything seemed to click," Kristy says. "I kept telling them, he would be better as long as we were together. I said, 'If you let us be together, he will get better.' And that's when it started coming around."
A "Perfect" Wedding Day
The ordeal had Kristy feeling sentimental. One day in the hospital, she texted one of her best friends who was at the couple's 1985 wedding. "When this mess is over," she wrote, "I'm marrying this man again."
First, they needed to get back to real life. After spending about 11 days at the hospital, and another 11 at a rehab facility, they finally got to go home on July 10.
Their annual family beach vacation to North Carolina's Outer Banks in August marked the first time both of them were able to walk again without wheelchairs or walkers. And it was the perfect time for Andrew to make his move. While strolling along the beach, Andrew dropped to his knees in the sand and proposed to Kristy.
Two days later, on Aug. 29, the couple renewed their vows as their children and grandchildren looked on. Making the experience even more special, their son-in-law officiated.
Rachel & Diana Saddlemire Kristy and Andrew Mackenzie with family on their wedding day
"It was amazing," Kristy says. "Family means everything to us."
"It was perfect," Andrew adds.
Reflecting on their full-circle experience, Kristy says there's a takeaway for everyone: "I hope it shows others to love like you mean it, and never give up on love or each other."