Thirty-two-year-old Jessica Anderson from Fairfield, Iowa, was in a bar when she met Jesse in November 2008. He was out having a few drinks before his regular two-week hospital visits. Jesse had cystic fibrosis, but that didn’t stop the pair hitting it off that night.
It was something of a whirlwind romance. And Jessica was quickly smitten. Jesse told her about his medical condition within a couple of weeks, but she didn’t mind. In fact, she had already suspected it and had been reading up on the condition.
Jessica felt something special within the relationship. Those closest to her questioned whether she knew what she was getting into, but she remained resolute. She was ready to accept his condition. “I saw something in him and I wanted to be a part of it,” Jessica wrote in a blog on the website Love What Matters.
Jessica remained a truly supportive partner. She helped provide everything that Jesse might need to help him live with the condition. Jessica ensured he took the correct medication and even signed up for charity runs to raise awareness.
But in the early part of 2011, Jesse’s condition began to worsen substantially. In response, doctors then arranged for a double lung transplant. The operation couldn’t have gone better, and he was soon back in good health.
Jessica and Jesse got engaged later in 2011. And around this time, Jesse showed signs of improvement. He enjoyed pitching in with physical tasks, and the couple even traveled across America together. However, in 2014 Jesse’s health again took a turn for the worse. A few days before they were due to marry, he once again started to experience shortness of breath and periods of exhaustion.
The married couple then decided to move in with Jessica’s parents, to be closer to the local hospital. Still, Jesse’s health continued to deteriorate and the couple began considering another double lung transplant. It appeared as if his body was rejecting the first set of new lungs he’d been given.
In the early morning of Boxing Day 2014, Jesse’s cries for help woke the household up. He was struggling to breathe. “He was sweating profusely but he was freezing cold. [Jesse] was leaning up against the sink and I could see the fear in his eyes looking back at me […],” Jessica wrote on Love What Matters.
Jesse and Jessica had developed a code language. “I’d ask him, ‘Do you think you can get out of it?’ He’d always be able to tell me, ‘Yes’ and I trusted him, and we hadn’t had any issues up until this point,” she wrote. “I asked him, and his response was, ‘No.’” Jessica did her best to hide her panic.
Jessica stayed by Jesse’s side in the local hospital for nearly three weeks, as he was transported between intensive care and the respiratory units. Doctors diagnosed him with pneumonia and a fungal infection. It wasn’t looking good, but Jessica never gave up hope for her husband.
However, it soon became clear that Jesse wasn’t going to recover. His CO2 levels were dropping heavily. Jessica described the moment the nurse told her the news in her blog on Love What Matters. “[…] When I asked her what the number was, I saw her face in the faint darkness in the room and when the numbers left her mouth, I knew it was over.”
Jessica made the decision to share the information with Jesse’s family, so they could all be there for his final days. Two days later, surrounded by his siblings, his parents and nephew in hospital, Jesse died.
Jessica’s grief was intense. Her brother Kyle made the journey from Alaska to lend support in her time of need. He stayed by her side for the next two months. Describing the difficult period, Jessica wrote on Love on What Matters, “I feared what life was after Jesse. I was scared of the unknown. I didn’t know who I was or how to take care of myself. He was the glue that held me together.”
Eventually, Jessica did fall for someone else. In 2016 she reunited with an old love from her school days and they soon became close. Things began to look up again. However, in December 2016 she received an unexpected phone call. Her brother Kyle, a pilot, had gone missing. His girlfriend said the plane he was flying hadn’t arrived at its destination and officials were carrying out a search for him.
Jessica had been instructed not to panic, but how could she not? More phone calls arrived in the coming hours, but none with any serious developments on the search. Jessica couldn’t sleep. What had happened to Kyle?
It wasn’t until the next evening that it became clearer what had happened. Some of Kyle’s personal items had been discovered in a lake near where he had taken off. There had almost definitely been a fatal accident. Jessica was inconsolable. Her heart had broken again and it felt like life would never be the same.
Jessica’s new boyfriend helped her throughout these testing days. Then, on the day before Kyle’s funeral, she discovered she was pregnant. And she would be in for another huge surprise during the ultrasound.
Jessica wrote on Love what Matters, “[…] When everything was set in stone, the screen flashed, and the [baby’s] due date appeared. July 27. My heart literally skipped a beat. Jesse’s birthday.” Baby Piper was later born with no problems. “My daughter is the best thing that has ever happened to me,” Jessica added.
“Grief changes you, friends. It controls you, it scares you, and it brings you peace,” Jessica continued. “It’s a really, really messed up process. You feel like you’re in the middle of a hurricane and you’re being whipped uncontrollably in every which direction.”
But Jessica never gave up. “For me, my biggest struggle is letting go,” she wrote. “Piper has given me purpose. She’s given me a reason to strive to be the best I can be. Her sweet little face reminds me that life is worth living.”