Daughter provides will to live


Aug. 23, 2008 at 3:23 a.m.

Kevin Nurse fumbled with his keys, trying to unlock the door of the two-family house he rented in the Manhattan borough of Queens.

He had just left for work when he remembered something he had forgotten back at his apartment.

It was about 4 a.m. March 13, 2006, when he hurried through the door and ran up the flight of stairs.

Then he went blind.

The moment started Kevin on a journey that took him to death’s doorstep. Four years later, memories from his journey still bring tears to his eyes.

Lightheaded, Kevin hugged the support beam at the top of the steps for 20 minutes before his vision returned.

“Something was just telling me whatever you do don’t fall down. Hold on, and let’s see what happens from here,” Kevin said.

Rather than seek medical help, Kevin called in sick to the UPS office where he had worked for 17 years. He fell asleep, thinking he was exhausted from a hectic weekend full of activities with family.

A good team

The 20-minute commute to pick up his daughter, Hailee, passed slowly.

Kevin and his roommate, Kevin Jackson, known as Preme, would pick up Hailee from the other side of Queens.

The father and daughter made a good team.

She loved to eat.

He loved to cook.

And the two made a night of doing both every other weekend.

Cooking seafood was the dad’s specialty, and the daughter knew exactly what she wanted when she got in the 2002 Ford Explorer – lobster.

“It looked like she got in a fight with a bucket of oil,” Preme said. “She had lobster in her hair, all over her face and arms up to her elbows. Her shirt was soaked. There was lobster everywhere.”

“And then, it was gone,” Jackson said of how quickly Hailee ate.

Kevin’s own childhood pushed him to be a better father to Hailee.

Born Feb. 27, 1971, Kevin never had a father to guide him through life, learning mostly from trial and error.

His parents, two Panamanians, became friends when they were 12 and married young. But the childhood sweetheart’s relationship soured, and they separated after Kevin was born, divorcing in 1977. He would see his father a only few times growing up.

Kevin struggled with bitter feelings toward his father for leaving them and starting a new life. “What about me and my siblings? Where did we go wrong? We were just kids,” he said.

But Kevin was determined not to mimic his dad’s departure.

When Kevin and his wife divorced, Kevin pushed for and won joint custody of Hailee.

Heart trouble leadsto blindness

His blindness came after years of heart trouble for Kevin.

Kevin thought he was fatigued, but doctors diagnosed a more severe problem – the left side of his heart had stopped working. An infection, viral cardiomyopathy, had taken a horrible toll.

They predicted he had at most two weeks to live unless he allowed them to implant a device that would keep him alive.

“At that point, I just gave up,” Kevin said. “I said to myself, ‘If I had cancer or anything else, this would be the breaking point where it was out of my control,’

“I just shut down from there. I didn’t want to talk to anybody or see anybody. I just accepted it.”

A priest and a psychologist tried to talk him into accepting the device, but it was his mom who finally got through to him by talking about his daughter.

“My mom showed up,” Kevin said. “She said she understood how I had lived a full life and done a lot of things many people would never even dream of doing, but there was no way she could tell this little girl that something had happened to him.”

“You can’t quit on me,” Kevin remembered his mom saying. “This isn’t about you anymore. This is about Hailee.”

Doctors put the two-pound titanium pump into Kevin’s abdominal cavity.

The device would keep Kevin alive for about a year.

The long-term cure Kevin needed was a new heart.

He was bumped to the top of the transplant list, but because of his size, 6 feet 1 inch tall and 250 pounds, Kevin needed the right heart – one in perfect condition from a man of roughly the same size.

So Kevin waited for his match to die.

The final installment in this series will print Wednesday.



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