Newlywed dies in hospice care, days after wedding in hospital chapel

Javier Rodriguez, who has had two heart transplants stemming from a birth defect, died Monday night, according to his family. He and wife Crystal Cuevas-Rodriguez married last week at a UChicago hospital chapel.

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Wedding of Javier Rodriguez, 23-year-old dying patient of the University of Chicago Medical Center, and his girlfriend Crystal Cuevas on November 27, 2019.

The wedding — in a hospital chapel — of Javier Rodriguez, 23, and his then-girlfriend, Crystal Cuevas, on Nov. 27, 2019. Rodriquez died Monday night at home in Logan Square.

Victor Hilitski/For the Sun-Times

A newlywed heart transplant patient has died days after marrying his high school sweetheart at a hospital chapel last week, his wife confirmed Wednesday.

Javier Rodriguez, 23, was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy when he was in seventh grade and has had two heart transplants stemming from the birth defect. He died in his best friend’s arms Monday night at home in Logan Square, surrounded by loved ones, his wife Crystal Cuevas-Rodriguez said.

“Javi was a fighter, and he fought till his very last breath,” Cuevas-Rodriguez said. “He died beautifully with so much grace.”

The couple got married on Nov. 27 in a tiny chapel at the UChicago Medical Complex. They quickly planned the wedding after Rodriguez decided over the previous weekend that he’d had enough and would live out his last few days at home in hospice care.

Two days later, he moved back home, where he stayed in his bed set up in the living room while friends, family and other loved ones came to say goodbye.

“We were all there, sleeping on sofas, talking to him, listening to music,” Cuevas-Rodriguez said. “The house was full the whole time, and he loved it.”

Cuevas-Rodriguez said they met when they were both juniors in high school and she knew he was the love of her life.

“Javi was that man,” she said emphatically. “He was so confident. He wanted amazing things in life and no one could stop him.”

She said that Rodriguez would do anything for his loved ones, including the couple’s infant daughter, Leia, who was born earlier this year.

“He loved her so much and just wanted to spoil her,” Cuevas-Rodriguez said. 

She said that Rodriguez’s condition made it difficult to do things like hold or feed Leia, but he worked “tirelessly” so that he could.

“Even if he was struggling, in pain or frustrated with life, he put his daughter first,” Cuevas-Rodriguez said. “It meant the world to me that he gave everything he had to be the best father he could be.”

Cuevas-Rodriguez said they took lots of photos as a family for their daughter to remember him by.

“He loved her with everything, and she’ll know that for a lifetime,” Cuevas-Rodriguez said.

Funeral arrangements will be kept private, with a ceremony for friends and family. People can help with expenses by donating to the family’s GoFundMe page.

Contributing: Stefano Esposito

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