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Real Life

Real life: Devastated husband's wife dies on their honeymoon

“Our honeymoon suddenly took a terrifying turn...”

By Brittany Smith

Chase Clarke, 28, shares his real life story:

Waves crashed against the headlands as my girlfriend, Kelly, gazed up at the stars.
I got down on one knee on the sand and took her hand.
Tears fell from her eyes and she pulled me into a tight hug.
"Yes!" she smiled. "I knew you were going to ask."
Kelly always saw right through me.
From the moment I'd met her at a mate's party five years earlier, it was clear she was too smart for me.
Even at 18, she already knew exactly what she wanted in life.
"I'm going to be a nurse at a children's hospital," she said.
She was so clever, bubbly and caring that I fell in love with her straightaway.
We became joined at the hip, going out to restaurants or cheering on the Rabbitohs footy team on weekends.
Before long, we were finishing each others' sentences.
We moved in together and I knew I'd found the woman I wanted to spend my life with.
But with her studying nursing while I worked as a carpenter, money was tight.
We wanted to have kids some day and didn't see the point of blowing all our savings on a big wedding.
Instead, we planned it on a tight budget.
We decorated the gardens in a local park for the ceremony and booked a function room at an RSL for the reception.
I blinked back tears when Kelly walked down the aisle in her lacy white dress.
She looked absolutely stunning.
"Because of you, my love, I smile and plan our future," Kelly vowed. "I will always be standing next to you."
We couldn't go on honeymoon immediately as Kelly had just landed her dream job at a children's hospital and couldn't get time off.
But my mate, Maurice, was getting married in Fiji five months later so we figured we'd have our honeymoon then.
Kelly squeezed my hand in excitement when our plane finally touched down on the tropical island.
We were so excited to finally go on our honeymoon.
Over the next four days we went scuba diving in pristine waters, lounged around at the beach and hired kayaks to go exploring.
One night, we met with friends at a beach resort.
After a few drinks Kelly rubbed her belly.
"I have a stomach ache," she explained. "You stay and enjoy yourself, I'm going to go lie down."
Thirty minutes later my phone rang.
"You have to come," Kelly choked. "I'm really sick."
I found her throwing up in the bathroom.
She was feverish and shaking, and her face was pale.
I rushed her to the nearest hospital.
"Hang in there, babe," I said, squeezing her leg.
At the emergency ward, I was terrified.
The room was grubby, with paint chipping off the walls and dirt everywhere.
"What is this place?" Kelly groaned, glancing around.
We had to pay the doctors in cash or she wouldn't be treated, so I handed over the contents of my wallet.
"Please just fix her," I urged.
They believed she had typhoid, a feverish disease spread through bacteria.
They gave her an IV drip and took her blood for testing.
Later the next day, some colour returned to her face and she managed to sit up.
"I'm feeling a bit better," she said.
Exhausted, I went back to our hotel to sleep.
At 1:30am the hospital rang.
I always knew we were soul mates.
"Your wife can barely breathe," the doctor explained. "We're putting her in an induced coma."
I thought I was having a nightmare.
Kelly had looked so much better.
How had she gotten worse again?
She'd begged to speak to me before she was put under so the doctor put her on.
"I'm scared I'm going to die," she rasped, sobbing.
My heart broke. I just wanted her in my arms.
"Don't think like that," I said. "I love you."
She was unconscious by the time I arrived.
The doctors warned Kelly's typhoid had worsened faster than expected and the country didn't have the strong medications she needed.
Instead, she'd need a medical evacuation, where a specialised doctor could fly over and bring Kelly home.
"It's your only hope," the doctor warned.
Tears pricked my eyes as I held Kelly's hand, feeling completely overwhelmed.
I wasn't going to let her go.
Kelly's mum, Karen, hopped on the first flight over, and I started arranging the flight.
There was a doctor who specialised in evacuations available on the other side of Fiji, a 25-minute helicopter ride away, but the hospital recruited one all the way from New Zealand instead.
It made no sense to me, but they insisted it was the best choice.
The flight took six hours.
Before the doctor arrived, Kelly's heart stopped beating.
I watched in terror as doctors started resuscitation.
Once the evacuation doctor arrived, he gave Kelly stronger antibiotics.
He said they'd take time to take effect.
Karen arrived right before the doctor turned to us with a grave look.
"Her brain was without proper oxygen for 45 minutes," he said. "It's too long."
I stared at him, desperate to hear there was something, anything he could do.
"If she comes out of this, she'll be heavily brain damaged," he added.
It was too much to take in.
I tried to picture my proud, beautiful wife lying in bed terrified and confused, and relying on a machine to help her breathe and eat.
The doctor said there was no chance she'd make a recovery.
I looked at her sleeping peacefully, breathing softly.
The only comfort was knowing she had no idea what was going on.
I knew she was the one for me.
"Switch off the life-support," I choked, looking at Karen's face.
She nodded tearfully.
I gave Kelly one last kiss as she slipped away.
Then, my heart shattered into a million pieces.
It was all so surreal.
Days earlier she'd been laughing and splashing around in the water as we celebrated our honeymoon and looked forward to a lifetime of laughter and love.
Now, she was gone.
Later that day, blood test results revealed she'd had double pneumonia, not typhoid.
It was a vicious virus that would've killed anyone who didn't receive proper treatment.
I was too angry to feel sad.
I felt like if it wasn't for the hospital's incompetence, my wife would be alive.
Back in Australia, over 750 people came to the funeral.
It reminded me just how many lives she'd touched in her short 24 years.
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"I will always be standing next to you"
Three months later, I still can't sleep properly without her.
Part of me will always be missing and I don't think I'll ever get used to it.
I want to warn everyone going overseas to check the hospitals are up to scratch.
Nothing will ever make up for losing Kelly, but I'm going to fight to make sure the dodgy Fiji hospitals change.

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