There used to be days when Bobby Gazaway said he dreamed of taking a break from reality and spending a day or two doing nothing more than sitting on the couch watching television. For the former landscaper and laborer who was used to working long, hard days, that dream has now been fulfilled with a harsh and unexpected reality.
The 28-year-old Stephenville resident was diagnosed with congestive heart failure in October, and since then hasn't been able to do much more than watch TV and head to various doctor's appointment.
He is worried what his inability to work will do to his young family. He is worried how he will ever be able to pay for a heart transplant or pacemaker his cardiologist says he will need to recover.
He and longtime girlfriend Kristen Esslinger have two children and are expecting a third in January.
"All I can do is sit on that couch," Gazaway said. "I used to dream about doing that, but it's awful. I want to get back to work. I don't want to be on that couch anymore."
But reality is harsh sometimes and the fact that Gazaway is uninsured might hinder his chances of getting what he needs to make a full recovery.
Gazaway's ordeal began in September when he and his family came down with a bug.
With preschool age children in the house and Esslinger working at a daycare facility, the family was no stranger to the common cold and flu.
"It was just a nasty cough with chest congestion," Gazaway said. "I had to sleep at a 90-degree angle to get any rest."
When he went to the doctor, he was diagnosed with bronchitis and prescribed a strong antibiotic and steroid.
But after a week of taking the medications, his ankles began to swell.
"My ankles swelled to three times their normal size," he said. "I knew something was really wrong."
Within 30 minutes of a return trip to the hospital, Gazaway was diagnosed with congestive heart failure.
"I almost had a heart attack when I got the call," Esslinger said. "It was the last thing I expected."
Doctors told Gazaway it was probably caused by a viral infection or from his past stint on chemotherapy. When Gazaway was four, he was diagnosed with B Cell Lymphoma.
Gazaway's condition was so dire doctors wondered how he was functioning.
"At that point the doctor looked at me and asked how I was even walking or talking," he said.
He soon had a cardiac ablation - a procedure that is used to destroy small parts in the heart that may be causing heart rhythm problems.
But it hasn't helped much. He is afflicted with shortness of breath and extreme exhaustion.
He has applied for disability and is waiting to hear if he qualifies.
"Two weeks ago we laid in bed and just cried," Esslinger said. "It wasn't long ago that we were doing so well. Then we didn't know how he would give our kids Christmas. Our son is 5. He knows about Santa and would wonder why he didn't come."
But thanks to the generosity of strangers, Christmas is one less thing the young family has to worry about. Santa will come.
"Thanks to the kindness of so many people, our kids are happily set for Christmas - and school for next year. We have been shocked by the generosity. It's been such a blessing."
For more information on ways to help this family, visit gofundme.com.