After bonding over a shared genetic condition, the pair in the following story felt their meeting was fate. But just as they were determined to seal their romance, this brave couple was thrown a curveball when the groom’s health deteriorated.
It was a race against the clock to seal their love while both of them were still alive…
Funeral Of A Friend
Darren, 24, of Fulham, London, met Lauren, 24, of Watford, Hertfordshire, in March 2015. They were first introduced at the funeral of a mutual friend and fellow cystic fibrosis (CF) sufferer, Ben Fidelia. But without CF, they would have never met.
The disease is genetic, progressive, and causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time. In the UK, most cases of CF are transferred to the child at birth and the inherited condition causes lung infections and digestive problems.
As Darren and Lauren talked over drinks at the wake, they learned they had seen each other before. Two years earlier, in October 2013, they met at the Royal Brompton Hospital in Chelsea, London, where, since turning 16, they had both regularly received in-patient treatment for CF.
Lauren told Metro UK, “I was walking along back to my ward, with a cup of tea in one hand and my phone in the other talking to my mum, and I saw these three six-foot blokes with their hoods up, coming towards me….I’m quite dinky so it was a little bit intimidating and as we got nearer to each other it didn’t look like they were going to let me through.”
“Then, suddenly, one of them put his hand out and pulled his mate to the side, saying, “Let the lady through!” Lauren added. This man was Darren and after that, the pair spoke throughout the night, bonding instantly and promising to stay in touch and look out for each other, despite Lauren’s then-boyfriend being with her at the funeral.
Just a few weeks later, they met again when Darren walked in and saw Lauren’s black hair extensions lying on the floor. He joked, “What are those rats doing there?” Their friendship blossomed from there and during hospital stays for intravenous therapy (used to combat infections more effectively).
They often stayed in rooms next to each other and Darren would bang on Lauren’s wall in the morning to wake her up for physiotherapy. However, their growing affection towards each other concerned nurses, as CF patients were not meant to mix because of the risk of cross-infection.
“We really weren’t supposed to mix and they used to tell us off for it,” Lauren said. “One day, we sneaked off to the pub around the corner and a doctor saw us. After that, they tried to have us moved further apart, but we protested singing ‘We shall not, we shall not be moved!’ until they let us stay.” They were inseparable.
Celebrating The Holidays Together
As Christmas 2015 arrived, Darren’s condition had worsened, but the pair celebrated New Year’s Eve together by sharing Chinese takeout while watching the fireworks on TV. Knowing Lauren was single by then, Darren told Metro UK, “We were both having a really nice time so I said to her, ‘What would you do if I gave you a kiss?’”
He expected her to say something like, “I’d give you a slap,” but instead she said, “I probably wouldn’t do anything.” After that moment, they were boyfriend and girlfriend. This didn’t surprise anyone at the hospital and the nurses had even been placing bets on who would ask who first.
Waiting On Donor Lungs
Sadly, Darren’s health deteriorated further and he had been on the transplant list since January 2016. Doctors told him that he could die within months unless a donor’s lungs were found. “I knew that I was ill and that I might not make it,” Darren explained. “But with CF you can be the healthiest person in the world and then one day get an infection that kills you the next day.”
“So I thought what’s the point in not asking Lauren to be mine? She’s made me happier than anyone else in the world and we’re both going to die anyway, so we might as well be together and be happy,” Darren said. But just as he was planning on proposing to Lauren in March 2016, he got a major scare.
Darren went into cardiac arrest, and his family and Lauren were told that he would probably die within 24 hours. Just as Darren’s loved ones, including his mother, Lisa, 52, father Darren Sr., 50, and Lauren and her parents gathered to say goodbye, a pair of lungs that were a match for Darren became available.
Waking Up From Surgery
After an eight-hour operation at the hospital, Darren was given a new lease on life. “When I woke up, I couldn’t speak and I couldn’t move, but I knew I had survived and had been given another shot at life,” he said. “The first thing that came into my head was Lauren. She was all that seemed to matter to me, so, before I saw my family or anyone, I asked for her.”
Darren wrote on a scrap of paper, “Will you marry me Lauren?” and handed it to her. Despite being very weak, yet stable, Darren was able to return home from the hospital after a month and he moved into Lauren’s home. Despite the risks that this posed, the couple planned for their wedding once they saved enough money.
“Whereas most couples argue over what to watch on [the] telly, we were arguing about space in the fridge for each of our medicines,” Darren said. “Living together was an amazing time.” But, sadly, their love nest was broken up when Darren’s health worsened again. This time, he became sicker than he was just before the transplant.
After being admitted into Harefield Hospital, Darren learned his body had rejected his new lungs. Although the lungs had functioned well for two years, a severe infection in early 2018 caused them to fail and in turn, his body rejected them. Lauren recalled, “That was the most horrendous day. Having thought that his new lungs would give him a new lease of life, to then be told that it hadn’t worked was unbearable.”
Making Lauren His Wife
Darren’s life expectancy was reduced to a few weeks after doctors realized his infection was worse than they initially thought. But Darren, being the gentlemen that he is, was determined to keep his promise to Lauren and make her his wife. With the help of the mother of one of Lauren’s friends, they launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for their wedding.
The Wedding Of Their Dreams
Within a few days, they doubled their target and the money that was generously donated helped pay for Lauren’s dress, as well as food and flowers. A nearby private home was also donated for the occasion and Darren said it was the best day of his life.
Till Death Do Us Part
“I have put away some money for her as well as a box of my things for her to keep. But more than anything else I want her to be happy and to know that even after I’m gone I’ll always be with her,” he said. Lauren said, “I know it says till death do us part in the vows, but it’s not for us….Our love goes beyond that and will last long after both of us have gone.”