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Crystal’s Angel

picture featuring Javier Rodrigues

This November a group of 5o friends, family, and hospital staff made their way into the University of Chicago Medical Center’s seventh floor to celebrate the wedding of Javier Rodrigues and Crystal Cuevas. The 23-year olds have been dating since high school and wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. Javier, known as Javi to friends and family, was to be placed into hospice care on Thanksgiving, four days after his wedding.

Javi suffers from familial dilated cardiomyopathy, or heart failure. After two heart transplants when he was 14 and 18, he only had days or weeks to live. But the young groom wanted his tombstone to read “Husband.” The pair met through friends in high school in their junior year, despite attending different schools. “He had this aura to him,” Cuevas said. “He walked into a room and you smelled confidence.

The hospital staff started making preparations for the wedding with a makeshift tissue paper aisle and electric candles. For likely one of his last meals, Javi asked for a strawberry wedding cake, but bakeries turned him down due to the short notice and Thanksgiving rush. The staff of the hospital took matters into their own hands and baked their own three-layer cake. They also did all the chapel decorations.

Hospital staff, nurses and doctors stood in the back watching, while friends and family took seats on fold-out chairs. The couple’s young daughter was placed in her carseat in the front.

The two met when Javi was healthy but had already gone through his first heart transplant. Shortly thereafter he got sick again, before getting a second heart. Sadly, Javi is not healthy enough to survive a third operation.

In mid-November, Javi called his girlfriend and told her he was going into hospice. “I always try to keep it together in front of him, but that day I couldn’t…I didn’t grow up with a dad, and that’s the one thing I always wanted to give my baby girl and that’s what he wanted” Crystal said. "Now that it’s come to this point, we’re trying to fit in as many pictures and videos and all of that as possible, so that she’ll never think that she didn’t have a dad.”

Javi left this world on December 2nd, but his family lives on in his wake.

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