If you want to know what love is, you might take a trek over to Steve and Sue DuBois’ house in Winslow.

Their devotion comes from beating death-defying odds and coming out on the other side.

Sue DuBois, 67, shares a playful moment with her dog Rosie Wednesday at the DuBois home in Winslow. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Steve will never forget the day four years ago when he came home to find Sue lying on the couch, unresponsive.

There had been no warning. He called 911 and tried to revive her, but couldn’t.

Sue, 63, was rushed to a nearby hospital and then taken by LifeFlight helicopter to Maine Medical Center in Portland, where doctors discovered she had a burst brain aneurysm, followed by a stroke to the cerebellum. She would spend weeks in the critical care unit.

“I stayed at a hotel in Portland for one-and-a-half months,” Steve DuBois, 65, recalled Monday. “I was scared to death. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat.”


Slowly, she regained some movement and after seven weeks, was moved to a rehab facility. But she became very ill and had to return to the hospital.

“She looked like she was at death’s door,” Steve said. “She had pneumonia.”

Steve DuBois, 65, brushes the hair of his wife Sue, 67, after he helped he get up from an afternoon nap Wednesday at their home in Winslow. Steve became a primary caregiver for his wife Sue after she suffered two strokes. The couple were married in 1975. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

After starting to improve, she began physical, occupational and speech therapies. Steve stayed with her in the hospital every day, all day. She spent a total of five months in hospitals and nursing homes before being sent home with the understanding she would have home health care. Though Steve called constantly, the care didn’t arrive for two months. They had fallen through the cracks and in the meantime, he was her sole caregiver — cooking all the meals, doing the laundry, washing floors and acting as her nurse. He couldn’t sleep at night.

A regional manager in subprime auto financing, Steve early on had worked remotely from the hospital, the hotel, and from home, but it became impossible to continue, so he quit his job. He suffered post-traumatic stress and fell apart.

His wife — who had been a hard-working phlebotomist and a vibrant, active woman who took in foster kids and who for 20 years loved spending time at their camp on Ripley Pond — was a shell of her former self. To see her unable to care for herself was heart-wrenching.

Steve finally got help from a therapist, went on an anti-depressant and finally, began to sleep a little bit. A year ago, they hired a competent personal care attendant for a few hours a day, five days a week, which is a huge help, but Steve continues to be Sue’s primary care provider.


He told me this story Monday while sitting on his deck as Sue took her daily afternoon nap. He kept a baby monitor at his side that would alert him if she woke up and needed anything.

Steve DuBois, 65, brushes the hair of his wife Sue, 67, after he helped he get up from an afternoon nap Wednesday at their home in Winslow. Steve became a primary caregiver for Sue after she suffered two strokes. The couple were married in 1975. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

The family’s story is much more complicated than space here allows, but suffice it to say it has been a long, bumpy road the last four years.

Shortly after Sue came home from rehab, Steve had to have surgery for a hernia he got from lifting. Last December, he contracted COVID-19 — he thinks he caught it from two men who came up from Boston to deliver a special bed to their home. Steve had double pneumonia and was in the hospital for five weeks, including seven days on a ventilator.

It was an experience he hopes never to revisit. He suffered terrifying nightmares and hallucinations from the medication and thought nurses were trying to kill him.

“I should be dead,” he said. “A lot of prayers were being said for me around the country.”

While he was in the hospital, his daughter took over hiring health care workers for Sue. While Sue had been vaccinated against the virus at her doctor’s urging, Steve didn’t get vaccinated because he was afraid that if he had severe side effects from it there would be no one to care for his wife. He has since been vaccinated.


“I implore people — get the vaccine,” he said.

After sharing his story, Steve led a tour of his property, on which he grows lots of vegetables, flowers, fruit trees, berries and herbs, in every nook and cranny imaginable. Being home all the time, he tends to his gardens religiously — he grows everything from seed — and relishes feeding Sue the good food that he cooks. A pastry chef at the former Silent Woman restaurant in Waterville, he bakes everything from fruit pies to muffins and cinnamon rolls.

Steve DuBois, 65, stands beside apple trees and strawberry plants he cares for Wednesday at the home he shares with wife Sue, 67, in Winslow. DuBois also maintains a vegetable garden and grows flowers at the home. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

“I cook, I can, I pickle, and I’ve been doing that for a long time,” he said.

The baby monitor squawked, indicating Sue was awake, so Steve went into the house. After a few minutes, he wheeled Sue, now 67, out onto the deck in her chair, with Rosie on her lap. Rosie is their black and white, 18-month part miniature Shih Tzu, part miniature toy poodle.

Sue is a beautiful woman with a lovely smile. Though she has little function in her right hand and struggles to find the right words, Steve says she is making incremental improvements. He has often been told he is a saint for sticking by her, but he couldn’t comprehend doing otherwise, he said.

“I know some people desert their spouses in times of stress, but I can’t understand it. I love my wife. We’ve been married 47 years. Family means everything to me — my wife, my children, my grandchildren.”


He reached over and took her hand.

“We don’t give up, do we, Sue?”

“No,” she said.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 34 years. Her columns appear here Saturdays. She may be reached at acalder@centralmaine.com. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.

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