On the outside looking in, local youth baseball coach Craig Edwards was living the life of his dreams. He lived in his Burlington home with his wife of 13 years, Bethany, and their three kids, Audra, 12; Sam, 10; and Mary, 6.
That picture-perfect life took a drastic turn in February 2014, when the family took a ski trip over Valentine's Day weekend. Edwards slipped on a patch of ice, and his body started swelling, something he initially attributed to his diabetes, which he was diagnosed at 27. But after gaining more than 30 pounds in a week, Edwards took a visit to the doctor's office and the diagnosis flipped his family's world upside down.
"[The doctors] end up running all the tests, and that night they came in and said, 'you have cirrhosis of the liver,' and we just kind of looked at them dumbfounded," Edwards said.
Now, because of a clot in the portal vein leading to the liver, Edwards is in dire need of a transplant. Doctors have told him that he could have as few as six months to live if he doesn't get a new liver.
The news was especially shocking to Edwards because after he lost his father at the age of 10, he made life decisions to avoid putting his own family in the same situation.
"I said I'm never going to drink, smoke, do anything, and I've stuck by that throughout the years," Edwards said. "I was forced to grow up and become the man of the house at 10 years old [...] I matured a lot quicker than my friends just in the way I went about school, everything else, making sure I got a good degree so that I would be in a position to support my family and hopefully not find ourselves in the situation that I was in when I was 10, but here we are."
Even after the original diagnosis, it was pretty much life as usual for Edwards. He tired out more easily than normal and found himself sleeping more than usual, but he continued to coach his son's travel baseball team and work full-time to support his family.
All of that changed at the start of the new year when he took a turn for the worse.
"We went to the beach right after Christmas, and on New Years day I found myself getting very, very sick," Edwards said. "We came home and ended up in the hospital that following Tuesday and they said the blood clot had shifted and my liver was completely non-functional."
At that point his MELD (Model for End-stage Liver Disease) score jumped from 14 to 18, and the following week increased to a 23. The MELD score is a measure from 6 through 40 to describe the severity of a person's liver disease. Edwards' MELD score is currently a 28, which places him at the top of the list for a liver transplant at both the University of North Carolina and Duke Hospitals.
Now, Edwards just has to wait. But the family believes that the transplant will come.
"The transplant is going to happen very soon and his body is going to accept the new liver and we're going to recover and move forward," Bethany Edwards said. "I don't consider [Craig may not get the transplant]. It may be irresponsible, but that's how I choose to deal with it.
Though the family is confident Edwards will get better, he is at peace with whatever happens.
"Being that I'm a religious person and that I'm a devout Christian, I've come to peace that God's
will will be done no matter what," Edwards said. "If he sees fit that I'm not to live, something good will ultimately come out of that."
The Edwards have two requests to anyone that hears their story. They ask for prayers for the family, and that people will register to become an organ donor, which they say can be done in about three minutes at http://www.donatelifenc.org.
For more information on the Edwards' situation, you can keep up with Edwards' journal at http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/craigedwards. A GoFundMe page for the family has raised nearly $10,000 in a month.
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