By Earl Gross
I never really thought much about "in sickness and in health, 'til death do us part" until I met my wife and lived through experiences that tested the spirit of this tremendous commitment.
Late in 2004, I answered a personal ad on Match.com and became connected to Diane Zold. We wrote back and forth a few times and I soon felt comfortable enough to give her my phone number. She called and before long we found ourselves talking for hours at a time.
Early in January 2005, we decided to meet in person. The date went well; there were sparks. We continued to date for about a month and then I moved in with her. We were very compatible. We enjoyed taking trips and working out at the gym about every other day.
Within a year we were secure about our future together, so became engaged and decided upon a wedding date of Columbus Day, 2007.
Then I began to get sick. I had trouble breathing, gained weight, and couldn't exercise. The month before our wedding on a doctor's visit, I was told I had atrial fibrillation, a common arrhythmia affecting the rate and rhythm of my heartbeat. Because we would be traveling out of the country to Aruba for our honeymoon, I needed an exam the day before the ceremony to gain medical clearance to take the trip.
The exam showed minor improvement, so we were able to enjoy our celebration and honeymoon. About two weeks later, however, the fluid and weakness in my body came back.
Over the next two-and-a-half months, I was admitted for treatment at Lowell General Hospital four times. I would be in the hospital for a week, go home for about two weeks, and then back to the hospital. What a difficult newlywed experience for my dear bride.
I was referred to Tufts Medical Center for a consultation, drove to Boston on March 11, 2008, and learned I was in the final stage of heart and kidney failure. I needed transplants.
My stunned wife and I sat staring at each other wondering, "How is this possible? We just got married."
I stayed at Tufts for five-and-a-half weeks while being qualified for the transplant list. After working all day in her demanding position as assistant dean at NECC Riverwalk, Diane rode the train from Haverhill to Boston to visit me for a few hours, then rode it home to get some sleep and do it all again the next day.
When I finally was stabilized with medication, I went home. But our lives had changed dramatically.
I couldn't work and we could not travel outside Boston while I was on the transplant list. In December 2008, I underwent emergency surgery at Tufts to remove a stomach band and was hospitalized for a week. In February 2009, most of my prostate was removed from complications unrelated to cancer, after which I was in the hospital for another eight-and-a-half weeks.
Eventually my strength and energy were so poor, I was admitted to the hospital indefinitely. Finally, in August 2009, the transplant surgery was done. I recovered remarkably quickly and went home for good.
I am so grateful that now, for two and a half years, I've enjoyed a quality life and a peaceful and loving marriage. I owe the doctors, surgeons, and nurses much gratitude for giving me my life back. Yet, I don't know how I could have survived it all without my new wife by my side.
The stress and pressure she had to deal with was in our first two years of marriage was incredible, but she never wavered. At a time when a weaker person might have run away, she stayed steadily by my side.
Thank you, Diane. Thank you. I love you so much.