Me and my hubby set the date… for him to die

the man she loved asked her for some­thing un­think­able. Could Louise Hughes, 25, from Wi­gan, keep her prom­ise?

Pick Me Up! - - CONTENTS -

We lived life wait­ing for that call to come – and fi­nally, it did…

As the buggy bumped over the wood­land track, my 18-month-old son Ge­orge gig­gled.

I glanced at my fi­ance Dave, 32, as he shot me, then Ge­orge, such a lov­ing look. God, I love him, I thought. It was Fe­bru­ary this year and Dave and I had taken Ge­orge for a walk with my mum Kath, 48, in woods near our home.

Look­ing at Dave grin­ning away, you’d never have known he was ter­ri­bly ill.

Shortly af­ter birth, he’d been di­ag­nosed with trans­po­si­tion of the great ar­ter­ies – a con­gen­i­tal heart disease in which the two main blood ves­sels leav­ing the heart are re­versed.

‘I’ll need a heart trans­plant one day,’ he’d told me when we met in 2012.

It didn’t stop us from fall­ing in love, and wel­com­ing baby Ge­orge in Septem­ber 2016.

In and out of hos­pi­tal, Dave wasn’t fit to work. So he stayed home with Ge­orge while I worked part-time at a nurs­ery.

‘Daddy loves you,’ he’d tell Ge­orge ev­ery night.

He told me that a lot, too. Be­cause Dave knew his heart could give way at any minute. It was some­thing I tried not to think about. I pre­ferred to fo­cus on the fact a phone call from the hos­pi­tal could come at any mo­ment, of­fer­ing him a new heart.

That’s why he al­ways had a bag packed.

And why we’d never been able to hol­i­day abroad.

We lived life wait­ing for that call to come.

And that day, dur­ing our fam­ily stroll, it fi­nally did...

Dave’s phone rang and he went quiet as he lis­tened.

‘That was the hos­pi­tal,’ he stam­mered, hang­ing up. ‘They’ve found me a heart!’ ‘Let’s go!’ I cried.

Leav­ing Ge­orge with Mum, we rushed home to grab Dave’s hos­pi­tal bag.

As we ar­rived at the Free­man Hos­pi­tal in New­cas­tle, staff wasted no time in prep­ping Dave for his trans­plant. ‘We can fi­nally go on hol­i­day…’ he said. ‘And I can take Ge­orge swim­ming.’

He’d never been able to be­fore as he had a left ven­tric­u­lar as­sist de­vice (LVAD) fit­ted in his chest.

It was like a bat­tery-pow­ered

heart pump that would im­prove his qual­ity of life un­til his trans­plant was pos­si­ble.

I kissed Dave be­fore he was taken to theatre.

‘Good luck,’ I whis­pered. I knew it would be a long op­er­a­tion. But when – 18 hours later – he was still in theatre, ter­ror gripped me.

Fi­nally, I heard that he was out of theatre but still un­con­scious.

The sur­geon took me aside. ‘There have been some com­pli­ca­tions,’ he said.

The sur­geon ex­plained the donor heart had gone into shock af­ter be­ing im­planted in Dave’s body.

He’d suf­fered a large bleed, had to be given med­i­ca­tion to thicken his blood.

But the heart had re­acted badly to it and lost all func­tion. ‘Oh, my God,’ I gasped. Dave had to be fit­ted with a Ber­lin heart, a de­vice out­side the body that took over the heart’s func­tion.

That ma­chine pump­ing blood around his body was the only thing keep­ing Dave alive. Doc­tors had to build up his strength be­fore he could have an­other trans­plant. He was un­con­scious but I sat with him day and night, des­per­ate to hear his voice.

He fi­nally woke up af­ter two weeks.

Telling him what had hap­pened was dev­as­tat­ing. But Dave lis­tened bravely. And though he was groggy, he had one thing on his mind.

‘I want to marry you,’ he croaked with a smile. ‘Let’s do it,’ I grinned.

As Dave couldn’t leave his hos­pi­tal bed, we would have to hold the cer­e­mony right there on the ward.

The nurses helped me ar­range the reg­is­trar for 23 March, as well as flow­ers and the cham­pagne re­cep­tion.

Ge­orge wore a lit­tle suit, with a flower on the jacket just like his daddy, while I wore a long white gown I’d bought at Deben­hams in Manch­ester.

My dad walked me through the hos­pi­tal cor­ri­dor and into the room where Dave, Ge­orge, my mum and other rel­a­tives were wait­ing for us.

Once we were pro­nounced man and wife, they even threw con­fetti over us!

Bliss. But it was short-lived. Dave’s health con­tin­ued to

Burst­ing into tears, I ran out of the room. I was dev­as­tated, an­gry

de­te­ri­o­rate, as he con­tracted chest in­fec­tions.

On 4 May, a doc­tor told us it was highly un­likely Dave would ever be healthy enough for an­other trans­plant.

Then they asked if he wanted to con­tinue treat­ment. Dave grabbed my hand. ‘Lou, I can’t do this any more,’ he said tear­fully.

I thought back to years ear­lier when Dave made me prom­ise to end his treat­ment if his suf­fer­ing be­came too much to bear.

‘This is me telling you that I’m suf­fer­ing,’ he said.

Burst­ing into tears, I ran out of the room.

A doc­tor caught me when I nearly col­lapsed.

I wasn’t just dev­as­tated, I was an­gry. An­gry with the cards we’d been dealt, an­gry with Dave for giv­ing in and leav­ing me and Ge­orge...

But the doc­tor got me a cup of tea and calmed me down.

Dave was right. He’d been through so much, and I’d promised to help him es­cape the end­less pain.

I couldn’t be self­ish.

‘Do you re­ally want this?’ I asked Dave in tears later. ‘Yes,’ he replied. Af­ter we gave our con­sent to end Dave’s treat­ment, his doc­tors, sur­geons and pal­lia­tive-care team met to dis­cuss the sit­u­a­tion.

We set the date for 8 May.

Three days away. The hos­pi­tal moved a dou­ble bed into Dave’s room, so I could stay with him.

On 7 May, we spent all day in our py­ja­mas, and watched The Lion King with Ge­orge in the big bed.

Our fam­i­lies had also gath­ered to say their farewells.

At 7pm, he asked ev­ery­one to leave so we could watch the soaps to­gether for the last time.

Be­fore we went to sleep that night, Dave asked me to prom­ise one more thing.

‘Ev­ery night, please tell Ge­orge his daddy loves him,’ he whis­pered.

‘I prom­ise,’ I sobbed, kiss­ing him.

The next day, at 12.24pm, Dave’s life-sup­port ma­chine was switched off and he passed away in his sleep a few sec­onds later, still in my arms.

Though heartbroken, I felt a sense of relief. His suf­fer­ing was fi­nally over.

Two weeks later, we held Dave’s fu­neral.

Al­ways think­ing ahead, he had given me his ex­act wishes, and I made sure that his re­quests were car­ried out.

His favourite Elvis songs were played, his cof­fin was draped in a Marvel-themed sheet and each pall­bearer wore a T-shirt with a dif­fer­ent su­per­hero on it.

Ge­orge wore a lit­tle top with Iron Man on it, Dave’s favourite.

Ge­orge is 2 now. And I still tell him ev­ery night how much his daddy loved him.

And when he hits 18, there’s a video wait­ing for him made by Dave while in hos­pi­tal.

I miss my hus­band ev­ery hour of ev­ery day, and I hope to hon­our his me­mory by rais­ing aware­ness of or­gan dona­tion.

Each donor could save the life of an amaz­ing man like Dave.

I’m also train­ing to be­come a trans­plant co-or­di­na­tor, so I can help oth­ers who’ve been in our sit­u­a­tion.

It’s the least I can do for the love of my life.

Lit­tle Ge­orge is 2 now...

Dave loved our boy so much

A pre­cious fam­ily photo

Now I’m speak­ing out...

My hos­pi­tal wed­ding day

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