A New York doctor recounted the harrowing moment he watched his 27-year-old wife die days after she gave birth to their second child and his struggle to overcome the crushing grief she left in her wake.
“I feel like I’m waiting to take a breath, come up for air, and have this weight lifted. It never comes,” Dr. Jared Wilson, 30, told Fox News Digital.
“She will forever be in my heart, and in the hearts of our sons. They will know their incredible mother gave everything for them,” he said of his wife, Caitlyn Wilson, who passed away Dec. 22.
Jared, an anesthesiologist resident in Buffalo, said the couple was thrilled to welcome little Gabriel into the world. They already had 1-year-old Lincoln.
They tied the knot in Utah, their home state, on New Year’s Eve and were nearing their three-year wedding anniversary.
Their lives were as close to perfect as they had ever imagined.
“The biggest assumption we make in life is that we will have tomorrow,”
“I had a dream job. Two months before [her death], we had a picnic on the grass eating strawberries with our toddler, and we just felt like we had it made. We had everything we ever wanted and were busy and working hard. We were exactly where we wanted to be.”
Little Gabriel is born
But that joy soon turned into anguish. Jared took his wife to the hospital where he works Dec. 12 for a scheduled induction.
When the doctor broke her water, little Gabriel changed his position in her uterus, compressing her umbilical cord and creating a potentially fatal predicament for the unborn child. Caitlyn was rushed into the operating room for an emergency C-section.
The anesthesia caused her to bring up fluids, which she inhaled into her lungs, causing inflammation and difficulty breathing. She was given an oxygen mask.
It was the first complication of many that the healthy, young mother developed over nine agonizing days.
“Cait had extremely common complications,” Jared said. “Over time, they stacked up and every day she got a little bit worse.”
Unremarkable complications become deadly
On Dec. 21, Jared’s birthday, Caitlyn was so exhausted she asked to be put on a ventilator that could breathe for her as she slept.
Twelve hours later, her heart stopped, and she had to be resuscitated. Doctors discovered two blood clots in her legs and one in her heart.
“One by one over the next 12 hours we started seeing signs of severe organ failure,” recalled Jared, his voice cracking as he fought back tears. “Everything started to slide.”
He and Caitlyn’s father were outside the ICU in a conference room when a nurse came running in and said she had coded again.
A team of doctors and specialists were in her room, shouting orders and performing chest compressions.
“I remember looking in, and I tapped my wrist at the doctor in the room, asking how long they’d been running code, and he held up three fingers then four fingers,” Jared recalled. “I turned to Cait’s dad and said, ‘She wouldn’t want this.’ And he was crying and said, ‘I know.’ I walked in and looked at the doctor and said, ‘I’d like you to stop.’”
It was clear to Jared that she was already gone.
“I knew that she had fought harder than anything she could have imagined, and I knew it was time,” Jared said.
It was two days before Christmas Eve, and he crawled into the hospital bed next to Caitlyn.
“I just held onto her and I said my goodbyes,” Jared recalled.
Christmas without mom
That evening he went home to his two little boys.
“After she passed, I didn’t really want to celebrate Christmas,” he said. “The morning of I realized that she would have wanted the boys to still have that, and feel that love from her.”
Caitlyn had decorated the house and many gifts were under the tree, including matching pajamas for the boys to wear on Christmas Eve. But Jared discovered that under their bed were additional boxes of wrapped gifts.
As a resident, Jared earns a modest salary and works 75 hours a week. Caitlyn, he realized, had been quietly selling her own clothes that were in storage to save up money for these presents.
“It was a very somber and moving moment,” he said.
She had bought Jared a gun safe, and a jacket and boots to shovel snow from the driveway in Buffalo’s frigid winters.
“She did all these things out of love that I didn’t know she’d done. She was still taking care of us after she was gone,” he said.
On Christmas Eve, he put the boys’ pajamas on and the next morning watched them open presents that their mother had carefully wrapped for them.
“I held them in my arms and cried a lot,” he recalled.
Nine months later, their home is filled with constant reminders of Caitlyn. Every year, he gave her roses on their wedding anniversary.
He had already ordered them before her death and, in keeping with their tradition, he wrote tributes on the stems of three roses, representing the number of years they’d been married.
“Those roses are now dry and dead and still sitting on my nightstand,” he added. “I started this tradition with the full intention that I would be writing all over the stems of 60 plus roses one day.”
Although the most painful period of his life will forever be tied to Christmas, he plans to turn the holiday into a time for their family to honor Caitlyn.
“Cait had the most giving, charitable heart,” he said. This year for the 12 days before Christmas, their families are coming up with kind acts they can perform to commemorate her.
“December is going to be a hard month for us, but it’s also important to remember the joy we shared together,” he told Fox News Digital. “The biggest assumption we make in life is that we will have tomorrow.”
A GoFundMe page for the family has raised more than $191,000 as of Thursday evening.