Against all odds
They met in the spring of 1986 when they were admitted to the Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas in the wing of Cystic Fibrosis. Kimberley Marshall was 16, she was tiny, pale and beautiful. Kimberley was reddish with her long hair falling to her waist. David Crenshaw was 18 years old. David was waiting at the end of the hall, hoping the girl would appear at the other end.
„It’s not possible.” Therapist said. „She would not look at you”.
In the wing of the Presbyterian Hospital, on the 3rd floor, a bunch of adults and adolescents live in private rooms. Throughout the day, they receive large amounts of antibiotics by intravenous injections. Some have small oxygen tubes in the nose; others use more elaborate machines to open the bronchial passages. Respiratory therapists press lightly on their chests and backs hoping to dislodge the mucus from their lungs. There is always the dry stitch sound, the crumbly hair and the sound of the stitch spasms. The sound is heard as an old machine that tries to start. As a serial killer, cystic fibrosis is unstoppable. Even if there are treatments and medications that allow patients to live longer, in poor life, few survive until the age of 30.
It’s hard to imagine a love story that develops between two sick patients like David and Kim. But that’s the magic of their story.
When Kim Marshall came to the Presbyterian, in the mid-1980s, she knew she was lucky to live. Doctors have been waiting for her to die since she was born on July 10, 1969, when she was trying to breath for the first time, and started vomiting ablack-green mucus. But Dr. Kramer, then a pediatrician, informed her parents that it is just a temporary issue. At that time, due to the lack of developed drugs, 50% of children born with cystic fibrosis died about 10 years of life; 18% died in adolescence.
„That isn’t happening to us.” Said Down, the mother of the child to the doctor.
Dawn, a beautiful wife and her husband, an aerospace engineer Bill Marshall, were a pretty well-known couple among the good world of a Dallas society, even appearing in magazines.
„Suddenly,” She remembers, „it was as if our lives had stopped and we could not take it any further.”
Desperate to keep her daughter alive, Dawn held her daughter on a pillow and put her in a small crib. About three hours a day, she pressed on her tiny chest and back. Kim’s skin was white as a dove, and her bones were so prominent that they seemed to have acupuncture. To the astonishment of the doctors she managed to finish elementary school and joined a female football team.
But then days came when the face of the girl seemed to deflate like a rubber toy with a hole in it. Dawn was taking her daughter to the hospital, wondering if this time she will return home. The routine has become familiar – there have been several months at home and then returned to the hospital.
Kim is always accompanied by her plush animal, and she also prefers to keep her diary. When the children died in rooms alongside her, one after another, Kim wrote her impressions (Wendy winkles her at 8:10 in the morning, this one has suffered the whole night, it’s better so, Poor Creature).
„Kim was always so optimistic, eager to smile,” said Dawn.
„I think the diary was her way to prepare for what she knew that will happen.”
Because Kim did everything she could to be like „normal” (her name for children who did not have cystic fibrosis). In high school, she had only grades A and B and she always dressed gorgeously, wearing long dresses to hide her bones. If colleagues asked about the cough crises she would say the she has asthma. But, of course, she could not ignore the reality of her life.
Finally, in her last one she became so weak that she had to not attend classes and take her schooling at home. Unfortunately, she could not go to the banquet.
Kim became naughty. She would always play a movie – Blue Lagoon, the story of a teenage boy and a little girl who fall in love on a remote island. He went through a period of retreat, smoking cigarettes, two packs of Marlboro per night, even though she knew that smoking was badly harming her already badly affected lungs. She stole her mother’s car at night, making dangerous races.
One night, at the end of despair, Dawn finally screamed at her, „What’s wrong with you? Why are you trying to destroy yourself?”
Kim buried her face in tears and a started crying.
„You know what the problem is,” she said. „I have no life, I know I will not have a life.”
Dawn’s who always tried to have a quiet response for her, she did not know what to say at that moment.
„Our goal was to raise it as if it were not sick.” Says David’s father.
„We thought that maybe if he was courageous, he would resistmore”
In fact, David never behaved like a sick person. He was a joyful, driving races in wheelchairs and racing in the hospital hall. One night a few cystic fibrosis patients went to competitions outside for a time of -32 degrees Celsius.
„He had a sense of immortality.” Remembers Dr. Kramer.
For two years David watched Kim. She always went through the hall of her hospital room, trying to get courage to greet her. Kim watched him – he wore sneakers, blue jeans and a white shirt together with his glasses bound with a piece of tape; she smiled slightly at her and returned to read her book.
David was fearless.
„When she was in the hospital and he was home,” he remembers, „he calls me to ask how he feels and what he has done during the day.”
For months, David waited patiently while Kim was courted by other boys on the third floor – blonde boys, sophisticated, wealthy.
Then in the spring of 1989, when he and Kim left the hospital, David made the move. She called her home and invited her to have dinner together.
Even if she said no, David said „I’ll be there at 8.00 pm and no comment,” then he left.
Kim, who was scared, brought a girlfriend she had to face with David as she stood upstairs refusing to speak. She also did not say anything during the meal and gave David a bad look when he suggested going to the disco. When he brought her home, Kim stepped out of her car and headed for her room, slamming the door. But David still appeared at Kim’s house. He took her to „Sound Warehouse” to buy tapes. He took her to bowling. She took her to see how he was racing while she was nervous on the seats.
„Oh, Lord!” He said to one of those races, „He will die!”
David returned with the car and after the race he breathed a kiss through the air.
Despite the impossible circumstances, love flourished. On November 17, 1989, after her usual diary writings about the death of her friends, Kim wrote:
„Tonight, David and I went behind the picnic tables in the hospital and we kissed for the first time. I have so deep feelings for him, because he is my friend, he supports me and he loves me as much as I love him. Please, God, let this relationship bloom. ”
To the shock of families, friends and doctors, Kim and David announced their engagement.
„You are both sick.” David’s father told him, begging his son to change his mind: „You are sick! You can not take care of each other. ”
„Do you realize what’s going to happen?” Kim’s mother asked in tears.
„Do you realize that you will die in each other’s arms?”
„I think Kim realized it was the first and last time she could experience love,” says Dawn.
I still think it was crazy. We had all the possible questions: how can they coordinate their finances and insurance, how they will take care of them if they both are ill. But one day the Presbyterian priest told me, „Dawn, they do not have much to live on. At least let them be happy as long as they have each other ”
And I said, „You’re right!”
Kim and David’s wedding, the church was filled with the sound of coughing, all patients with cystic fibrosis community were present, wanting to see them as the couple vows to be together for better and worse.
Two Kim and David chairs were prepared in case they needed to sit down, but as everyone said after the event, Kim never showed healthier or more beautiful. The sponge from the wedding dress gave her body an attractive look. She even had red in her cheeks.
After they have registered at local hotel, where they spent their wedding night, David asked the hotel servant to them the bottles with oxygen in the room.
„We may need them,” he said with a big smile.
Their apartment resembled a hospital. It was filled with oxygen bottles and boxes with syringes and medication, and the refrigerator was filled with IV bottles. Domestic needs were difficult because they could not move normally. They needed a whole day to clean the apartment and wash their clothes. Kim was too weak to change the bedding and pick up the mattress.
At the store, he was walking slowly down the aisle carrying portable oxygen bottle with the tubs blocked in his nostrils. At night they were tired. Kim stood on the couch as David leaned on her seat in his wheelchair.
Still, they continued to resist. They were happier than they wereever imagined. He always keeps sending her colorful greetings, as many as possible, the better. She wrote long love letters to him.
„We will compete with the incongruous.”
By 1992, Kim’s condition worsened. Unfortunately, it stuck with IV needles hundreds of times as its veins ceded. Her digestive system causes diarrhea. He did not have the strength to talk.
Because her body was unable to absorb the food, she was losing weight. She started to be ashamed to show herself in public.
David wrote a letter in which he said, „I love your body as it is. Your body perfectly outperforms mine! You are the most beautiful woman on the inside and outside I know. I love you with all my heart and soul, please believe me! ”
David never left Kim in the long trips to the hospital. At night she slept on a chair in her room. Because she was so weak she was holding the feon to dry her hair. To entertain her, she headed her way to the maternity ward where she could look at newborns. If he wanted caramel in the middle of the night, he headed to the store and bought them.
But in 1993 something changed. David’s cough became more intense and deep. His face turned orange and the veins from his neck were outside. In the afternoon, a nurse called Dana Thompson stopped to see her. Kim saw a soap movie as David sat silently in his chair. Dana noticed that David did not look as good as he used to. He’s still looking at one of the TV actors. Finally he said, „I wish it was so beautiful.”
„I said, David, but you’re beautiful.” Dana remembers.
„But I looked at him and realized he was changing. His face was stretched because of fluid retention. He used to lift weights, and now all the muscles in his arms disappeared. Kim looked very sad and then I said … God, David will die first! ”
David tried to assure Kim that he had nothing to worry about why the doctor told her after a recent check. The disease, which was inactive for most of the time, punished him. His lungs became blocked with mucous tissue. His brancial lobes were closing. His heart did not pump enough oxygenated blood. If the assault continues, David would have lost more and more oxygen, starting to ease himself to death. It was a race against time. David said he should not waste time: In July, to celebrate their birthdays, David 26 and Kim 24, he insisted on going on a Florida holiday.
„Just once they felt good enough to go to the beach,” says Kim’s sister, Mandy, who traveled with them.
They both wore the tubes with oxygen. Kim could not get too deep into the water because of his problems with balance and David did not succeed because of the lack of power. Finally they stood on the beach, letting the water pass over their feet. They knew it was the last time they could be alone together. People were passing, they were watching but Kim and David did not care, they stared at each other and shook hands.
Three months later, David and Kim were to see Dr. Kramer for a check. While Kim was waiting in another room, Dr. Kramer studied David’s oxygen levels. He could not say at least two words without breathing vigorously.
„You have to get in.” Dr. Kramer said, „And this time you will not go out again.”
David only managed to say, „Take care of Kim.”
Dr. Kramer strolled around the hall to tell him. After a long silence, he wondered if David could go home for one night in their one-room apartment where he could cook them. When the doctor said no, Kim left her head down, trying not to cry.
„Do not let him suffer.” She said.