Two-time heart transplant patient, 23, dies just days after marrying high school sweetheart

A two-time heart transplant patient, 23, has died just days after marrying his high school sweetheart in an emotional ceremony held at a chapel at the UChicago Medical Complex.

“Javi was a fighter, and he fought till his very last breath,” said his wife Crystal Cuevas-Rodriguez, according to The Chicago Times. “He died beautifully with so much grace.” 

Javier Rodriguez was in seventh grade when he was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, a birth defect in which the left ventricle of the heart is enlarged and weakened, thus impacting the heart's ability to pump blood. Rodriguez then underwent two heart transplants, one at 14 and another at 18, but was not qualified for a third because of complications from infections and kidney dysfunction. 

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Heart transplant patient dies after wedding
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Heart transplant patient dies after wedding
Javi Rodriguez and Crystal Cuevas kiss during their wedding before family, friends and medical staff Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019 in the chapel at the University of Chicago Medical Center for Care and Discovery. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS/Sipa USA)
Javi Rodriguez and Crystal Cuevas cut their wedding cake before family, friends and medical staff Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019 in the chapel at the University of Chicago Medical Center for Care and Discovery. (Photo by Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS/Sipa USA)
Javy Rodriguez and Crystal Cuevas cut their wedding cake before family, friends and medical staff Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019 in the chapel at the University of Chicago Medical Center for Care and Discovery. (Photo by Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS/Sipa USA)
Javy Rodriguez and Crystal Cuevas kiss during their wedding before family, friends and medical staff Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019 in the chapel at the University of Chicago Medical Center for Care and Discovery. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS/Sipa USA)
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Javi and Cuevas-Rodriguez met as juniors in high school and married on Nov. 27, just days after Rodriguez decided to live out his final days in hospice.

“Javi was that man,” Cuevas-Rodriguez continued. “He was so confident. He wanted amazing things in life and no one could stop him.”

The couple is also parents to daughter, Leia, although Rodriguez struggled to hold her because of his condition. 

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

“He loved her with everything, and she’ll know that for a lifetime," she continued.

Javi's family has launched a GoFundMe to help with funeral expenses, which has already raised $32,000. 

"After 10 years of fighting he made the decision to live out his last few day’s with the help of hospice," the fundraiser writes. "In our time of need, we ask for whatever help anyone can give so we can make the preparations for Javi’s departure."

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Best Hospitals: 2018-2019
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Best Hospitals: 2018-2019

20. Brigham and Women's Hospital

Where: Boston
Honor Roll points: 177
Last year's Honor Roll rank: Not ranked

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19. Duke University Hospital

Where: Durham, North Carolina
Honor Roll points: 178
Last year's Honor Roll rank: 17th

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18. Mount Sinai Hospital

Where: New York
Honor Roll points: 192
Last year's Honor Roll rank: 18th

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17. Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Where: Nashville, Tennessee
Honor Roll points: 198
Last year's Honor Roll rank: Not ranked

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15 (tie). UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside

Where: Pittsburgh 
Honor Roll points: 208
Last year's Honor Roll rank: 14th

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15 (tie). NYU Langone Hospitals

Where: New York
Honor Roll points: 208
Last year's Honor Roll rank: 19th

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14. Hospitals of the University of Pennsylvania-Penn Presbyterian

Where: Philadelphia 
Honor Roll points: 225
Last year's Honor Roll rank: 10th

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13. Northwestern Memorial Hospital

Where: Chicago 
Honor Roll points: 228
Last year's Honor Roll rank: 13th

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11 (tie). Mayo Clinic Phoenix

Where: Phoenix
Honor Roll points: 241
Last year's Honor Roll rank: 20th

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11 (tie). Barnes-Jewish Hospital

Where: St. Louis 
Honor Roll points: 241
Last year's Honor Roll rank: 12th

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10. New York-Presbyterian Hospital

Where: New York
Honor Roll points: 242
Last year's Honor Roll rank: 8th

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9. Stanford Health Care-Stanford Hospital

Where: Stanford, California
Honor Roll points: 250
Last year's Honor Roll rank: 9th

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8. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

Where: Los Angeles 
Honor Roll points: 252
Last year's Honor Roll rank: 11th

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7. UCLA Medical Center

Where: Los Angeles 
Honor Roll points: 267
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6. UCSF Medical Center

Where: San Francisco
Honor Roll points: 296
Last year's Honor Roll rank: 5th

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5. University of Michigan Hospitals-Michigan Medicine

Where: Ann Arbor
Honor Roll points: 324
Last year's Honor Roll rank: 6th

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4. Massachusetts General Hospital

Where: Boston 
Honor Roll points: 354
Last year's Honor Roll rank: 4th

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3. Johns Hopkins Hospital

Where: Baltimore 
Honor Roll points: 355
Last year's Honor Roll rank: 3rd

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2. Cleveland Clinic

Where: Cleveland 
Honor Roll points: 385
Last year's Honor Roll rank: 2nd

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1. Mayo Clinic

Where: Rochester, Minnesota
Honor Roll points: 414
Last year's Honor Roll rank: 1st

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