Dancer and choreographer Derek Hough gave an emotional acceptance speech dedicating his 2023 Emmy for Outstanding Choreography to his wife, Hayley Erbert, who is recovering from serious health issues.
Backstory: Hayley Undergoes Multiple Brain Surgeries in Late 2022
In November 2022, Hayley revealed she underwent a painful craniectomy surgery to treat a rare spinal fluid leak. She later required additional procedures for complications. Hayley described 2023 as “life changing” with “a lot of healing, growth and learning” after the terrifying health scare.
Hayley underwent craniectomy surgery for spinal fluid leak
|Follow-up procedures needed for complications
Delayed Return to Spotlight for Derek During Hayley’s Recovery
The surgeries and Hayley’s difficult recovery kept Derek mostly out of the spotlight in late 2022. He described the experience as “very challenging physically and emotionally.”
As his wife focused on healing, Derek limited public appearances and work commitments. He attended the 2022 Emmys solo, later thanking fans for “understanding why I couldn’t be there.”
Derek limits work commitments
|Attends 2022 Emmys solo while Hayley recovers
Triumphant Return at 2023 Golden Globes
After months caring for Hayley, Derek made his first red carpet appearance of 2023 at the Golden Globes on January 10th with his wife. Her journey to attend the Globes seemed at times “unfathomable,” Derek later said.
Hayley’s first public outing since surgery likely helped reassure fans. As Derek held her hand on the red carpet, he called Hayley his “absolute rock.” Her doctor also approved travel to the Globes, suggesting her condition had stabilized.
January 10, 2023
First red carpet event since Hayley’s surgeries
|Derek calls Hayley his “absolute rock”
Emotional Emmy Win Dedicated to Hayley
On January 7th, Derek won the Emmy for Outstanding Choreography for his work on ABC’s Disney Night on Dancing with the Stars.
In his tearful acceptance speech, Derek said the past year was the “hardest year of my life supporting my wife.” He dedicated the award to Hayley for giving him love and courage.
Hayley congratulated her husband on Instagram, calling Derek her “biggest cheerleader” during her recovery. His Emmy win came almost two months to the day after her latest surgery.
January 7, 2023
Wins Emmy for DWTS choreography
|Dedicated award to Hayley’s love and courage
Signs of Further Healing
In a New Year’s Eve Instagram post, Derek reflected on the difficulties but also joys and blessings of 2023. The post included a video highlighting Hayley’s ongoing recovery.
By year end, Hayley felt well enough to travel internationally again. The couple brought in 2024 on vacation after not taking extended trips for nearly all of 2023.
Sources told reporters Hayley continues gaining strength. She may soon publicly share details on her harrowing medical journey to help others experiencing similar ordeals.
December 31, 2023
Hayley feels well enough to travel internationally
|May share details publicly to help others
What Comes Next
With Hayley’s health slowly improving, Derek will likely take on more television and film projects halted last year. But he remains committed to supporting his wife’s full recovery however long it takes.
Derek still finds inspiration from Hayley’s perseverance through four brain surgeries and lengthy healing process. Their next chapter promises brighter days ahead after an incredibly difficult 2022.
As Derek said accepting his award, “We’re continuing to choose love and courage…we got this and the best is yet to come.” Judging by Hayley’s amazing progress so far, Derek seems absolutely right about their bright future together.
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