It all started our junior year of high school. A photograph at a friend’s house taken of Chris (17 yrs old) holding his one month old baby sister and his 7 year old little brother standing at his side. I knew that there was something special about him the moment I laid eyes on that photo. A few months later we met. What a charmer! He knew just what to say and do to make me melt. We were head over heals for each other, but things were going to fast and we lived in two different worlds. We broke it off for a while and went our separate ways. He needed to straighten out his life and we both needed room to grow.
August 2003 I received a phone call from him. He had something important to tell me. He had joined the US Marine Corps and was leaving for recruit training in 4 days. He had finally done something to better his life. I was so proud of him. I received a letter from him EVERY Thursday while he was in boot. At the stoke of midnight, New Year’s 2004, he proposed…I accepted with honor. It would only be two weeks later that I would get a call from him saying “Baby, I’m leaving.” He was being deployed to Iraq that February with with the 3rd Battalion 7th Marine Division. He left on Valentine’s Day. Seven months seemed to drag on forever. When it was done and I had him back in my arms, all I could think was that the worst was over.
We were married October 30, 2004. I moved to Twentynine Palms, California with him and lived in hotels for a couple of weeks before he sweet talked his way into base housing. Just before returning home for Christmas that year he began feeling sick, as though he was getting a sinus infection. While home in Louisiana his symptoms worsened. Then it was as though he had a kidney infection. A couple of days after returning to Twentynine Palms he decided to go to the ER because he could no longer keep anything down. That’s when our lives were flipped upside down. He was told that he had hepatitis, but they would have to run more tests to find out which type. He was put on convalescent leave and told that it would get worse before it would get better. Two weeks later he was back in the ER because he could not remember anything. The toxins that were not being processed by his liver were going to his brain. He couldn’t do something as simple as dressing himself. Once the doctors saw him and ran tests we were told that they were looking for the nearest transplant hospital that would take him because his liver was failing so quickly that he may not live another week.
He was transported by ambulance to Loma Linda University Medical Center in Loma Linda, California. He was put into ICU awaiting the next available liver from a cadaver donor that matched his. While we waited and more tests were run I was told that it was not hepatitis, but the doctors couldn’t figure out what it was. Meanwhile, Chris slipped into a coma. January 30, 2005, after four days of waiting, a match was found and he received his second chance at life. As grateful as we were, we were also saddened because the reason Chris lived was because someone somewhere had died.
After his transplant things seemed to be going well then all of a sudden more bad news. He had developed A-plastic anemia and HHV-6. No one knew how or why these came about. He stayed in reverse isolation for two and a half months. After the third month he was finally able to leave the hospital. We lived in an apartment a block away from the medical center. He was in and out a few times a week. By August we were homesick and couldn’t take being stuck so far from everyone we knew. So we transferred to The Methodist Hospital in Houston Texas to be closer to our family in Louisiana were he could still get the best medical care. Chris was attached to the I&I unit there Houston and he was well on his way to a less ill lifestyle.
After a few months of struggling, he finally was able to travel to Louisiana. Not long after that he was doing much better. He was receiving blood transfusions and IVIG treatments once a month rather than once or twice a week.
July 2007, after returning home from a family vacation in Arkansas we were hit with some news that neither one of us were ready to hear…Chris had been admitted into the hospital for low RBCs and while there the doctors found that over time he had developed a 4x6cm stone in his bile duct. The bile had backed up causing an infection that later spread to his bloodstream. Surgery was not an option, he would die on the table due to loss of blood. During a procedure attempting to break the stone, he stopped breathing on his own. He was rushed to critical care. While in critical care he was diagnosed with pneumonia on top of everything else.
A few days later I got the “We regret to inform you,” but in a whole different way. Chris and I were told together by his hepatologist that he was not going to make it. There was nothing else that they could do and that we should call our family and friends. We spent the weekend with a room full of relatives, fellow Marines, friends and one Marine determined to make his life count. He told us that he wasn’t dying, he was simply moving to the moon because he got a really good real estate deal.
He “moved” to his “new home” August 13, 2007.
My outlook on life is so much different than I had ever thought it would be. I am more confident and determined than I have ever been because of him. He lived every moment to the fullest, even to his last breath. He was my best friend, my husband, my hero.
*We still have no answers to why his liver failed in very beginning.