RUSK (TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH) - Lindie Bryant got a big surprise this month. Her longtime boy-friend, Steven Berry, proposed to her on Dec. 13 shortly after his bilateral lung transplant.
Berry, a 21-year-old Rusk resident, said he planned to propose on New Year's, maybe after a firework show.
But all of that changed when he was told he had a transplant offer. Berry was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at 3 years old and had been on a transplant list since September.
He headed to St. Paul University Hospital in Dallas Dec. 10 only to learn that the lungs weren't good. He was discharged home then learned of another offer the next day. Around that time, he realized that his surgery was going to proceed, which got him thinking about a proposal and the future.
"I had discussed it with my mother ... about doing it and got to thinking there's that risk of 'What if I don't make it through this?' I don't want to do that to her -- leave her without that promise I'd made," Berry said.
So when he was going into surgery, he said he told Ms. Bryant he needed to ask her something when he got out. He woke up from surgery on Dec. 13 in the intensive care unit and was able to write his proposal down on a sheet of paper. He said his mother slipped him the ring, which he pulled from under the covers.
Berry said his mother had to turn the note around for him, and Ms. Bryant looked at the ring and said "Yes."
"I wrote (that) I love her and (appreciate) all the support she gave me and wanted to spend the rest of my life with her ..." Berry said.
"She never saw me pull the ring out. After she got done reading the letter, she looked at me, and I kind of looked back at the ring, and she looked at me and said 'Yes.'"
Ms. Bryant, an 18-year-old senior at Rusk High School, said she was caught off-guard and didn't think that he would gather a ring in the midst of his transplant. However, she said she is "completely excited" and already started planning the nuptials with help from her mother.
Dr. Fernando Torres, medical director of the Lung Transplant Program at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, wasn't in the room when Berry proposed but did see video.
He called the experience "neat" and "unique."
"He could not talk and still had a breathing machine with a tube in his throat and had to communicate by (writing). ... It was very moving, and I'm glad she said 'Yes,'" Torres said.
Berry and his fiancee have been together on and off for four years.
Ms. Bryant said Berry would come over to see her cousin, who he was best friends with growing up, and their relationship blossomed from there.
After high school, Berry went to culinary school in Dallas. However, he said he moved back to Rusk because it got hard to breathe and do things because of his cystic fibrosis.
He recently got out of the hospital and into an apartment in Dallas. Ms. Bryant said there was a time when he couldn't get from his truck to the porch, but he recently was up and moving around the hospital.
Torres said the life expectancy for cystic fibrosis patients after a lung transplant ranges from days to 15 to 20 years.
He said Berry will stay in Dallas for two months, and then he can travel back home.
In the meantime, Berry is busy recovering, and his fiancee is busy preparing for the wedding, which is planned for October near Rusk.
"My friends are excited and helping me plan. Everyone's behind us on it," Ms. Bryant said.