"Brooklyn was just about to be wheeled down to surgery for the heart transplant we hoped would save his life. He looked pale and weak from months spent in hospital and I was terrified he wouldn’t survive. Suddenly he looked up at me and said, “I’ve got something to ask you, Ellie…”
“What is it?” I asked nervously.
He grinned and said, “Will you marry me?”
Despite being minutes away from having his chest cut open, he told me he wanted to propose while he still had his own heart, because he didn’t want to take any chances of not feeling the same afterwards.
That’s classic Brooklyn – everything’s always tinged with humour, even in the most serious of situations. We’d all been winding him up in the months leading up to the operation, telling him he might wake up with his new heart and find he didn’t even love me any more.
I was so shocked, I must have said, “Are you lying? Is this a joke?” multiple times before I eventually said yes. But I was over the moon.
Just four months previously, medics were hours away from turning off his life-support machine because there was “no hope” of him surviving. It’s a miracle he’s even alive, let alone my fiancé.
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Brooklyn and I met just over two years ago. I was best friends with his sister and then one of his friends started dating one of mine. I loved his sense of humour. There was no special meeting, it just sort of happened. I was only 16 but it was young love.
Brooklyn told me quite early on that he was born with a heart valve defect – his aortic valve has a leak – but I had no idea the condition was as bad as it was. Even he didn’t know at the time.
He had to undergo major heart surgery twice in the first 36 hours of his life, but as a child and young adult he seemed to be OK. He played football regularly with his beloved team, Meliden Football Club, and did everything any other lad of his age would do.
But towards the end of last summer, his mum and I noticed his health was deteriorating.
He complained of being tired and feeling dizzy and eventually said he was too exhausted to play football or go to work.
At the beginning of October we took him to hospital for what we thought would be a routine check-up but he was admitted there and then.
We were told his aortic valve was severely leaking and he needed emergency surgery so a mechanical valve could be fitted.
That operation was cancelled five times due to a lack of intensive care beds, but finally, just before Christmas, the operation went ahead.
I was so hopeful that this would give a decent quality of life back to Brooklyn, but the 19-hour surgery couldn’t have gone more wrong. Surgeons mistakenly cut a main artery and he almost bled to death on the operating table. He had to be brought back to life twice.
Brooklyn also had a major stroke and was in an induced coma for two weeks after surgery. Doctors estimated his brain had been starved of oxygen for 17 minutes and he was not expected to recover. It was agonising – we really thought we were going to lose him.
Thankfully, a stroke consultant assessed Brooklyn and found he still had brain activity. His sedation was gradually withdrawn and very slowly, he started responding.
I spent almost six weeks close to the hospital with his family, away from my family miles away in Wales, and every day just tried to focus on Brooklyn. It’s really difficult and it does take quite a lot out of you. I sat at his bedside almost every day, holding his hand and willing him to get better.
On Christmas Eve he whispered, “I love you,” to his mum, who was by his side. It was an incredible moment. He’d come back to us.
Brooklyn was immediately put on the heart transplant list and it was a really nerve-wracking time.
Every now and then, we’d get false hope because a heart was coming in that “might” be a match but it either wasn’t compatible or the heart wasn’t strong enough. It was blow after blow.
Finally in February, we got the good news: a heart had been found. That was when Brooklyn proposed. He was so brave and good-humoured. But the operation was abandoned halfway through because the heart wasn’t suitable.
When he woke up he was so confused because he’d been cut open and was in considerable pain. We had to tell him it was still his old heart beating in his chest. It was back to waiting again until we got another call and Brooklyn’s second attempt was scheduled for St Patrick’s Day, 17 March.
After everything he’d been through we were petrified something would go wrong. The moments before he was wheeled down to surgery, I had to walk away at times because I didn’t want him to see me upset and panicking.
Thankfully, the 17-hour surgery went well and Brooklyn finally got his new heart. When he came home on 7 April it was amazing. We picked him up in a Rolls-Royce and his whole family was waiting at his grandad’s house, which was decorated with balloons.
He’s lost most of his vision in one of his eyes and one of his hands isn’t working brilliantly, but he’s still got a smile on his face. He’s going from strength to strength and we’re taking it a day at a time.
There’s a chance he’ll need another heart in the future as the doctors told us transplants typically last between 12 and 18 years, but some people go 30 years with the same one.
As for the wedding, we’re going to have to get saving… but there’s no rush. The focus now is getting Brooklyn well. I’m just happy his new heart loves me as much as the old one."
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