Nursing a relationship: How nearly 300 days in the hospital strengthened a couple's bond with one another – as well as with a profession

February 23, 2023
A man and a woman in white scrubs stand outside in front of a wooden fence
Jordan and Kaila Eaddy have a long and complex relationship with MUSC. Photo by Sarah Pack

He was sure it was her. 

Twice they had passed in the hallway, and he had stolen side glances each time. It had to be, he thought. Same face, same mannerisms. But the part-time patient care technician and second semester MUSC College of Nursing student still had to ask. 

“How long have you worked here?” he blurted out the next time they crossed paths. “Coming up on 10 years,” she replied. “Why?”

And that voice. Now he was certain.

Before he could say another word, a flood of emotions washed over the 32-year-old as he thought back to 2013. When his life forever changed. Or more accurately, nearly ended. 

‘Things were happening so fast’

Jordan Eaddy grew up in rural Hampton County. In high school, he played golf and was on the high school chess team. 

“Not exactly the coolest kid in town,” he said, laughing. 

A man and woman sitting on a rock in the woods, smiling 
Kaila and Jordan started dating in 2011, back when cellphone cameras weren't that great. Photo provided

But then he met Kaila, two years his junior, and his image got a much-needed shot in the arm. “Now here I was, dating this girl who was out of my league,” he said. “That was pretty cool.” Knowing a good thing when he saw it, Jordan proposed. Kaila got into nursing school. He became a paramedic firefighter. They started house shopping. Things were good. And then the stomach pain came.

It was intermittent at first, but soon it became something he couldn’t ignore. Some days, the pain was so bad he couldn’t even get up to go to work. And that’s when the then-23-year-old knew something was seriously wrong. The week of Easter 2013, he couldn’t ignore things anymore. One day at work his stomach hurt so badly he could barely stand, so he finally drove himself to the ER. It was there, at Hampton County Regional Medical Center, where they saw it. On the screen in front of them was an image of a 10 cm mass in his abdomen.

He had cancer.

After that, things became a bit of a blur. A transfer to MUSC. More scans. Lots of scary terminology. Surgery. Discharge. Then, a few weeks later – just when he thought he might be out of the woods – he collapsed while at his grandmother’s house. This time it was sepsis, a life-threatening response to an infection. Jordan was rushed to the hospital again where he was immediately airlifted back to MUSC. Just like that, he was back in surgery. 

“Things were happening so fast,” he said. “And then, all of a sudden, I’m going under again.”

When he finally woke up, it was 10 days later.

From the brink

Kaila remembers every one of those awful days between, none worse than the first.

“They were just really honest with me and the family,” Kaila recalls of that first night at MUSC. “They said there was a good chance he wouldn’t make it to tomorrow.” Jordan’s body was ravaged by widespread infection and his cancer had spread. 

man and woman in hospital room, he has a breathing tube in 
Jordan after he first woke up from being out for 10 days. Photo provided

Against the odds, though, he hung on. And much to his doctors’ surprise, he began to come around. But the real fight was just beginning. 

There were more bouts of infection. More organ failure. Jordan slipped in and out of consciousness. Days stretched into weeks. Weeks became months. Kaila dropped out of nursing school, refusing to leave Jordan’s side. Some days, Jordan would smile and talk to them. Far more days, he didn’t.

“Honestly, I did not think he would make it through,” she said. “At all.” 

Things got really dire at one point, she recalled. But there was one doctor who said there was a combination of chemotherapy drugs and antibiotics they could give Jordan that might give him a shot. “I’ll never forget her telling us, ‘If we give him these drugs, he’ll probably die. But if we don’t give him these drugs, he’ll definitely die.’”

“That really hit me hard,” she said.

Miraculously, the drugs worked. But in the end, though the medicine did a lot of the heavy lifting, what really got her and Jordan through it all – what gave them hope when there really wasn’t much to be had – were his nurses. The whole family became very close with the medical/surgical ICU care team. 

“They are the sole reason he is still here today,” Kaila said. 

It’s kind of hard not to grow close when you spend 299 days together.

Road to recovery

After nearly 10 months in the hospital – three grueling seasons – Jordan Eaddy was finally discharged from the hospital. But life wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows on the outside. For starters, Jordan couldn’t even walk or do much for himself. So he mostly relied on Kaila. Though her love for him was as strong as ever, her love of health care took a huge hit in the months that followed. 

a man and woman, both in green shirts, fist bumping each other 
The couple participated in "Relay For Life" just months after Jordan was released from the hospital. Photo provided

“There was a long stretch there where I didn’t ever want to have anything to do with nursing again,” she said, having all but given up on her childhood dream. And how could you blame her – she was 20 years old and doing her fiance’s dialysis five days a week, the chemotherapy having taken its toll on his kidneys.

Caring for Jordan was a full-time job. The last thing she wanted to do was to leave him to go do the same thing for other people. For a while, she toyed with the idea of being a social worker. But eventually, Jordan – along with Kaila’s passion for caring for others – took a turn for the positive.

But it was slow going. When he finally was able to get out of bed, Jordan couldn’t go more than a few steps without getting worn out. And that was with the aid of a walker. One day, he turned to Kaila and said, “What if I can’t do this anymore?” 

In a moment of tough love, she snatched the walker from him and wouldn’t give it back. She told him to stop feeling sorry for himself. And that ignited something deep inside of them both. For Kaila, it was the rebirth of the neglected nurse within; for Jordan, it was the will to dig deep, give it his all. In that moment, Jordan vowed to be able to walk by their wedding, which was only a few months away. 

“I finally decided it was time to fight,” Jordan said. “So it kind of became a game. I decided how far I could take it. Every day I was alive was like house money. I owed it to myself. I owed it to my family. I owed it to Kaila.”

In July of 2014, the couple was finally married – and they were able to walk down the aisle together.

“Sometimes we’ll say we were really dealt a crappy hand,” Kaila said. “But we’re thankful for everything we went through because it made us appreciate and understand things better.”

Full circle

Time passed and Jordan went back to being a paramedic firefighter. Kaila did various jobs but never let go of her dream of becoming a nurse. Though life together was a gift, they both still felt something was missing. 

“Ever since I was a kid, I had always wanted to be a doctor,” Jordan said. “But after seeing firsthand how much of an impact nurses can have on a patient and their family, I think we both really felt like that was our calling.” 

And so, in 2022 both of them were accepted into the MUSC College of Nursing’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. Jordan is on track to graduate in December – Kaila in May of 2024.

Recently, Jordan got a part-time job as a patient care technician at MUSC to give him a little more hands-on experience to go with his schooling. It’s only one day a week, but it puts him in direct contact with patients – and with the opportunity to make a difference. Just like his nurses did for him all those years ago. One of whom he now works alongside in the cardiovascular intensive care unit. 

A large group of nurses surround Jordan 
Jordan grew quite close with the team of nurses at MUSC – some of whom he now works with today – that helped get him through a really rough time. Photo provided

He gets a little emotional when he thinks back to that serendipitous first encounter in the hallway a few months ago, her face immediately recognizing his, tears rolling their cheeks as they hugged.

“You’re taller than I thought,” she had told him. A fair statement, seeing as she had never seen him out of his bed at any point during his nearly year-long hospital stay. Now, they work on the same team, paying forward the gift of hope to today’s patients. 

“I don’t talk a ton about myself to patients,” Jordan said. “But sometimes, if one’s having a particularly rough day, I’ll say, ‘Look, I’ve been in your shoes, and I want you to know that things will get better. You just have to have a goal and not give up.’”