WATCH: Sick tradie’s wedding will have you in tears
WHEN Gold Coast tradie Casey Townsend collapsed unexpectedly at work, he and his adoring partner, Sharna, could never have imagined the horrendous journey ahead.
Nine months later, the 32-year-old father is fighting for life after a series of health disasters so cruel that it beggars belief.
After two strokes, two heart attacks (one rendering him clinically dead), a brain tumour and now, a pending heart transplant, Mr Townsend isn't giving up.
Neither is his family.
"Our lives have been completely torn apart," said Mrs Townsend, 30, of Burleigh Heads.
"I used to not believe how happy I was, I wondered how I got so lucky, and I'm still blessed, but you never want to watch someone you love go through this."
After his first stroke in September last year, during a concreting job in Brisbane, Mr Townsend had a second a week later, while still in Princess Alexandra Hospital.
"Doctors said they needed to operate to get a blood clot from his brain but it was very risky, and I said, 'go in right now and get it out'," said Mrs Townsend.
"He got through it, but it broke my heart because he couldn't talk or anything; that hard-working guy, who everyone wanted to be friends with, just looked at me and cried."
Upon being transferred to Gold Coast University Hospital in October, further tests were done, revealing a brain tumour. The couple married two days later, in a hospital courtyard, with Mr Townsend's father, Les, helping his ailing son stand for the vows.
"I knew I had to marry Casey because I love him to death and you never know what could happen next," said Mrs Townsend, who quit her sales job at Wittner shoe store in Robina to become his full-time carer.
"Casey still finds it hard to watch our wedding video because he was struggling to talk and couldn't stand securely but, seriously, I watch it over and over again. It's so beautiful. When I met Casey - in a nightclub in 2012 - I had just split from the father of my daughter, Sienna (now 7), and didn't expect to fall hopelessly in love. He took on the role of dad so easily, and we went on to have Sonny (3) and Ellie (19 months); we were stoked with our little family."
A week before Christmas, Mr Townsend became very short of breath and was rushed back to hospital where his heart rate hit 260 beats per minute.
"I watched him go into cardiac arrest, it was horrific," Mrs Townsend said, "but the doctors did CPR and he recovered, only to have a second cardiac arrest, at which point his heart stopped, so he actually passed away."
Successfully restarting his heart, doctors told Mrs Townsend her husband needed to be moved to Brisbane's Prince Charles Hospital but might die in transit. He survived the trip but, in a further crushing blow, was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, where fluid builds up in the body's organs. The only option was a transplant.
However, this would not be immediately possible because the immunosuppressant drugs required before an organ transplant would cause the tumour in his brain to grow aggressively.
"We have our feet stuck in the mud," Mrs Townsend said.
"Casey is not well enough yet to get the tumour removed - his heart wouldn't hold out under anaesthetic - so we are trying to make him stronger so that can happen first, and then the transplant, but it's a slow process, and he is also battling pneumonia."
Mr Townsend said her husband was "like a cat with nine lives" but all he wanted to do was get out of hospital and take the kids fishing and camping.
"He is such a loving and devoted father, it's just so frigging sad."
Friends and family have raised more than $70,000 to help the Townsends with associated medical costs, including via gofundme