Seventeen years ago, the most incredible man in the world walked into my families life. Today, January 11th, 2015, on his birthday, that man was taken from us - and the world got a little darker.
Dave was the light of the room. It was impossible to be in a bad mood around him. He could make anyone laugh. My mom had 2 kids when she met him, myself and my brother. I was 8, Michael was 5. Dave never once hesitated to take on the role that our biological father had abandoned. From day one he treated us as if we were his own. He embraced his opportunity to be a dad, no matter the cost - financially or emotionally. When I was 10, we found out my mom was pregnant with my beautiful little sister Hailey. Dave was elated. He loved us with every single fiber of his being. Never once did I doubt that he was beyond proud of us, every second of every day. We were blessed.
In August of 2014 Dave discovered a mass in his lower abdomen. That mass turned out to be a tumor. He was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma at the age of 42. The doctors told us that of all the cancers to have, this was the best to have. Dave took the news much better than the rest of us. He told us not to worry- he would take his chemo treatments, lose a little hair, he'd beat this and everything would be alright. His comfort eased our fears. He was taken out of work to complete his treatment and placed on short-term disability. He expected to be done with chemo and back to work by January.
In November, Dave had a mini stroke. He was hospitalized for a short time, but didn't seem to suffer any long term affects. Shortly after, in late November, he started developing respiratory issues. Again, he was hospitalized and we were told it was a bad case of pneumonia. He finished his series of antibiotics and seemed to be improving, so the doctors sent him home.
Things only got worse from there. Dave's respiratory issues continued. They post-poned chemo a few times because he was simply too sick to handle it. The week of Christmas, my mom tried to convince Dave to go to the hospital. Knowing he would probably be admitted again, Dave refused because he didn't want to spend Christmas in a hospital bed. My mom insisted, but Dave's stubborn personality wouldn't have it. He would wait until his appointment with his oncologist that same week.
On December 26th Dave saw his oncologist. He was immediately admitted to the hospital. His blood oygen level was down to 60% - a level that has killed people that were in better health. He was placed in a special care unit, where he could be observed 24 hours a day by a nurse. His lungs were filled with mucus. Since they no longer thought this was pneumonia, they sedated him and took cultures of his lungs and suctioned out as much mucus as they could. They had no idea what was wrong with him. Dave still couldn't breathe.
The next day, they moved Dave to the Intensive Care Unit. He spent the next 11 days fighting to get better. My mom drove an hour one way back and forth to the hospital. She still had Hailey to take care of, but wanted to be there for Dave. Dave had begun having panic attacks, as a result of being on 100% oxygen through a nasal cannula and an oxygen mask. The panic attacks were putting an even greater strain on his body. Dave still couldn't breathe.
On day 12, Dave begged to be intubated. He begged to be put on a ventilator. He was terrified. This strong, incredible man was so scared. The doctors agreed that it was the best option for him at this point. He spent the next 4 days sedated and paralyzed on a ventilator fighting for his life. He had dialysis daily, his kidneys had begun to fail from all of the drugs they had been pumping into him. The doctors told us that they weren't optimistic, they thought Dave wouldn't make it. We thought they were wrong.
Day 5 on the ventilator was the day Dave's lungs gave up. After a routine readjustment in his bed, his stats plummeted. His blood pressure dropped and his blood oxygen dropped to the 70's. They couldn't get him stable no matter what they tried. They asked my mom to sign the papers for a blood transfusion, they weren't going to give up on him. Nothing worked. We spent the next several hours at Dave's bedside. We watched his blood pressure continue to drop, his blood oxygen level continued to drop. There was nothing we could do. We had no choice but to watch him lose the fight for his life. My mom's whole world was torn away right in front of her eyes. My siblings and I had to watch our dad slip away.
In the last 5 months, the medical bills have continued to stack up. The household bills have continued to stack up. My mom has spent hundreds of dollars in fuel to get back and forth to the hospital every day. I don't know how she is going to catch up at this point. If you could find it in your heart to donate any amount of money, I would appreciate it more than you could ever imagine. My family has never been the type to ask for help or assistance, my dad was always too proud. The fact is that my mom could desperately use the help. She's had an awful year in 2014, and 2015 is shaping up to be even worse. Any help would be greatly appreciated, more than words can even express.
Thank you for reading my story. If you have nothing to offer, then all I ask is for a prayer for us to get through this as a family. We lost our hero, things will never be the same.
- Jennifer Coble and Family
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- Brent Brothers