She Thought New Fling Was Ghosting, but He Lost Memory in Coma: Now They're Falling Back in Love (Exclusive)

"We were not expecting it to turn into something wild,” Cody Bryant says of his romance with Haley Woloshen

<p>Amanda Gillian</p> Cody Bryant (behind) and Haley Woloshen photographed on June 24 in Hermosa Beach, California.

Amanda Gillian

Cody Bryant (behind) and Haley Woloshen photographed on June 24 in Hermosa Beach, California.

Even the night Cody Bryant and Haley Woloshen first met while on vacation in Hawaii sounds like something out of a movie — and one with plenty of twists and turns.

On Aug. 6, 2022, Bryant was visiting Maui with friends and she was with family. They crossed paths at a Lahaina bar and discovered they both lived in tiny Hermosa Beach near Los Angeles. They laughed at the coincidence and then spent much of the evening together, swimming in the ocean, watching a meteor shower.

“We were like, ‘This is amazing. What a story,’ “ Bryant, 35, tells PEOPLE in an exclusive interview for this week's issue. “We were not expecting it to turn into something wild from there.”

Wild is an understatement.

Their spark in Hawaii quickly turned into a casual but growing relationship back home as they bonded over shared interests like travel and outdoor sports. There was supposed to be a brief pause when Bryant, a residential videographer and frequent adventurer, went on a planned trip in Spain.

“I dropped him off at the airport and expected to pick him up again when he got back,” Woloshen, 28, who works for a medical device software start-up, tells PEOPLE. “We were texting after he got there and then suddenly — nothing.”

What Woloshen didn’t know was that on Sept. 6, 2022, exactly a month to the day after their first meeting, Bryant was riding a moped in Ibiza when he was struck by a car. He suffered a traumatic brain injury that left him in a coma and stole many of his memories, including all of his time spent with Woloshen except their first Maui meeting.

“In a text that will live in infamy, I wrote ‘Checking in that Ibiza didn't kill you,’ ”  Woloshen says now.

For more on Cody Bryant and Haley Woloshen's incredible real-life romance, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE or subscribe.

<p>Courtesy Haley Woloshen</p> Cody Bryant in the hospital in September 2022 after his accident in Spain

Courtesy Haley Woloshen

Cody Bryant in the hospital in September 2022 after his accident in Spain

Bryant’s traveling companions, an orthopedic surgeon and the surgeon's now-fiancée, a Spanish-speaking nurse, were crucial in what followed: They saw to his care while his mom and aunt raced to get to him.

His sister, Rachel, who was then living near Bryant, flew to their hometown in North Carolina to care for their disabled father.

“Doctors didn’t know if I was going to live or, if I did, if I would make it out of a vegetative state,” Bryant says. “Everyone was in crisis mode.”

And no one was thinking about the woman whom had just met him a month earlier.

At home, Woloshen’s curiosity was in overdrive. She scoured Bryant’s social media circle and stumbled upon a post from Rachel, 31, about a GoFundMe for Bryant’s mounting medical bills.

She realized he’d been fighting for his life and reached out to his loved ones to send her well wishes, keeping a respectful distance.

“I expected to never see him again,” she says, adding, "If anything, I imagined with living in the same town we would run into each other at some point."

Bryant has recounted on social media, including a popular TikTok account, what it was like regaining consciousness on Sept. 11, 2022, when his mom came into his hospital room in Spain. “It sounds cheesy,” he tells PEOPLE. “But when I heard her say ‘Cody Bear,’ I started waking up.”

He eventually returned to the U.S. on Oct. 11 of that year, to a rehab facility. By then, he was well enough to use his phone again, which gave him the first clue to the relationship he’d forgotten.

“I saw all the messages I had sent to Haley and I was like, ‘Whoa, I must have liked this girl,’ ” he says. So he took a chance — and Woloshen laughed when she saw his text: “Hey,” he wrote, “sorry I missed your message.”

Soon, Bryant and Woloshen were talking every day as they got to know each other all over again. 

"I knew this was so much bigger than a three-week fling," she says.

“There were a lot of things in flux, a lot of fragility with Cody. ... It wasn’t about jumping back into a romance," she says.

Bryant also overcame his own reservations about having her see him in an early state of healing, while he was partially paralyzed on his left side and missing some of his front teeth.

“Did I want to see her enough that I’ll risk her seeing me?” he says. “I was embarrassed, but I knew I wanted to and decided it was worth it to see her again.”

Woloshen says that "some of the feelings started to bubble up again” around when she began driving him to daily therapy at Neuro-IFRAH by Waleed Beverly Hills, which was allowing him to walk and regain use of his limbs. They would often spend hours in the car.

In early 2023, the relationship once again turned romantic. But there were still challenges ahead.

“We talked about, is this a viable time to start a relationship?” she says.

<p>Courtesy Haley Woloshen</p> Cody Bryant (left) and Haley Woloshen in Guatemala in March

Courtesy Haley Woloshen

Cody Bryant (left) and Haley Woloshen in Guatemala in March

Bryant was building back up his physical capabilities, but he says the psychological challenges — like grappling with his emotional changes, his memory loss and the shadow of “who I used to be” — proved more complicated.

He finds music, something he loved, now triggers anxiety. Lengthy social interactions can exhaust him. He and Woloshen “had very open discussions about, ‘Do we realize what we’re signing up for?’” he says. “But I’m thankful that we’re doing it together.”

Woloshen, who calls Bryant "the most lovable person I’ve ever met," waves away anyone who sees her as a saintly caregiver and Bryant’s sister, Rachel, calls Woloshen a “safe place” and offers “a fresh, clean slate” for him.

The couple, who currently live only a few blocks from each other — though they note even their roommates are friends — have been marking milestones as a couple, like a friend’s wedding in Guatemala in March where Bryant also hiked to the summit to see the Acatenango volcano with Woloshen by his side.

More recently, they returned from a trip to Yellowstone National Park in June as they begin to define what it is to be an "interabled" relationship — with one person with a disability and one without.

Bryant, who continues therapy and rehab work thanks to the GoFundMe contributions, is speaking out in part to help the “invisible” community of people with brain injuries as he's learning that “I can just be this new person.”

Woloshen adds, "Who knows if prior to everything happened, if we would've connected the way that we did. It's silver lining, I guess, in all of it."

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