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Trisha Rushing Duguay
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Birth: unknown
Death: Sep. 24, 2010

For Trisha Rushing Duguay, tragedy arrived suddenly. Death was less hurried.

Trisha Duguay died four months after marrying Jim, and 56 days after being taken off life support.

Jim Duguay's devotion to his wife, Trisha, was described by one of her doctors as a living example of the vow 'Til death do us part.' Here, the couple is seen in the hospital with Trisha's mother, Kristen Livengood.

Jim Duguay's devotion to his wife, Trisha, was described by one of her doctors as a living example of the vow 'Til death do us part.' Here, the couple is seen in the hospital with Trisha's mother, Kristen Livengood.

On Friday morning about 9 a.m., four months after taking her wedding vows, Trisha quietly passed away in hospice, her husband and parents by her side. Just 27 years old, she had continued living, remarkably, for eight weeks after her husband and family had, according to her wishes, removed her feeding tube.

Trisha's father, Jim Rushing, announced the news in an e-mail to family and close friends.

"Trisha has finally departed us on this physical journey to take her branch onto her spiritual journey. This journey has been 132 days in length 56 of those days off of life support. We know that not only her love & caring for others, but the sheer volume of prayer that has occurred will truly help her along this new path. Thank you.

"For some of those that did not know her directly, instead only knowing some of the two families, then you still knew Trisha as what she gave us always shined through."

Trisha's untimely death, brought on by a brain tumor discovered only hours after her wedding ceremony in May, brought a sad but merciful close to the Duguays' remarkable story, chronicled in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last month.

It's the story of a seemingly unlikely but somehow perfectly matched couple finding each other. Of the relationship they built on shared passions, good humor and faith. And, ultimately, the story of the promise made from one to the other that both hoped would never have to be kept.

A joyous, tragic day

Their wedding day had been a year and a half in the making. The quiet civil engineer and the effervescent administrative assistant, who had met at work five years before, invited family and friends to a north Georgia vineyard for an early evening ceremony.

For many years, Trisha had suffered severe migraines from time to time. So when they hit her in the week before her wedding, she was upset but not surprised. A doctor at an urgent care clinic gave her medication for pain and stress.

But on May 15, the day of the wedding, the pain in her head was like nothing she'd experienced before. She could hardly stand before finally making it to the ceremony, where she managed to smile and take her vows.

Just moments after walking down the aisle, though, Trisha was rushed to the hospital. Within 48 hours, she had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. Ten days later, after a six-hour surgery that could not remove the entire tumor, Trisha fell into a coma from which she never emerged.

Before the operation, during a 10-day "honeymoon" in her hospital room at North Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville, Jim and Trisha discussed every possible outcome of her surgery. Both were counting on a positive result. But Trisha made Jim promise: If she were to end up in a vegetative state, with no hope of getting better, he would not let her languish.

In late July, Trisha went into hospice. Shortly after, Jim and her parents agreed to honor her request. It was the most agonizing moment of Jim's life, but he told doctors to remove her feeding tube. Only the tube that helped her breathe remained.

Unexpected survival

The hospice staff told Jim to expect Trisha to pass away in a matter of days, or perhaps a few weeks. Instead, Trisha survived longer than anyone imagined: Her death came 56 days after her feeding tube was removed.

Emory University Dr. Carisa Hines, Trisha's hospice doctor, was surprised by Trisha's longevity. The longest any other patient she'd treated had survived without any nourishment was 21 days, she said.

Trisha's youth and otherwise good health surely helped her live so long in that condition, she said. Many times when life support is removed, she said, the dying patient has already been battling illness or injury and the body is weakened. Trisha, by contrast, was young and healthy, and in many ways, at the prime of her life.

But, she added, science doesn't always provide all the answers.

"As a person of faith, I definitely acknowledge there could be invisible forces at work," she said in an interview before Trisha's death.

Hines called Jim Duguay's devotion to his wife a living example of the vow "Till death do us part." She also said that the couple's discussion about how to proceed if things turned out as they did was an important lesson for others, a reminder of how important it is for couples of all ages to discuss end-of-life questions of care.

"This is something Trisha and Jim thought would happen many, many, many years from now," she said. "But Jim [had] to carry out her wishes now. And he has done it with grace and love."

Prayers and questions

He also did it with faith and determination.

From the moment Trisha was hospitalized just after their wedding, Jim was by her side around the clock. He held her, told her he loved her, slept beside her in her narrow hospital bed. He brought her flowers on their four-month anniversary.

After their story became public in the AJC in mid-August, Jim responded to the interest the story drew from readers by creating a Facebook page in tribute to Trisha. On the page, "From Bride to Angel," he posted regular updates on her condition. It attracted nearly 5,000 followers, many of whom posted messages of love, concern and prayer.

In one of his more recent posts, he daydreamed about a future honeymoon:

"We imagined sitting on a secluded sandy white beach of a tropical shoreline. We basked in the sun, slept in our laps and dug our toes in the sand. We swam in the sparkling turquoise water chasing tropical fish giggling like kids in our goofy masks. We shared lots of kisses."

As Trisha remained alive far longer than doctors anticipated, some used the Facebook page to insist Jim reattach Trisha's feeding tube, and called his judgment, and his Catholic faith, into question. While he found the comments hurtful, Jim remained steadfast. He took down the Facebook page a few days before Trisha's death, saying he wanted to focus on the time he had left with her, not on a few others' negative reactions.

A draining experience

A practicing Catholic, Jim always kept Trisha's Bible close by in hospice, often reading 1 John 4:16 for inspiration:

We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love, abides in God, and God abides in him.

As comforting as the words were, the experience of watching over his wife, dreading the inevitable, was draining.

"I am so tired," he said one day recently, fighting back tears. "I've been in a hospital for so long. But I know it's going to be so distressing for me when she passes."

He'd watched as several other patients had arrived, then passed away, their bodies taken away by funeral homes. He knew one day soon they would come to Trisha's corner room.

"I know we'll have to take these pictures down," he said, looking that the many photos of Trisha and their wedding around her room. "And it will be over."

Jim, who'd worked remotely after Trisha fell ill, stopped working altogether over a month ago. He said he plans to take at least a few more weeks off to regroup.

"I feel like I need a little time to figure out what the heck happened," he said.

Fitting memorials

As they kept vigil at her bedside, family members and friends found ways to celebrate Trisha's life. They had special pink wristbands made: "Trisha Bride to Angel," they read. To remember Trisha as she had been, they held "picture parties," bringing in photographs and sharing memories of Trisha over the years.

They laughed over images of Trisha smiling wide at birthday parties even when they weren't hers. As a child, she always wanted to help other children unwrap their gifts. Not to take them for herself, but because she couldn't contain her enthusiasm over the surprise inside.

As an adult, Trisha still looked forward to her birthday each October with childlike eagerness. This year, she told Jim, she wanted to rent an inflatable moonbounce to celebrate her 28th.

That wish won't come true. But a few private memorials are planned for Trisha. At a small, intimate service at the Dahlonega winery where Trisha and Jim got married, her loved ones plan to release balloons in her favorite color, pink. A funeral is also planned for Pennsylvania, where Trisha spent years as a child and where her mom still lives.

A third, more casual remembrance will take place at her father's house in Cumming. There will be a cookout and music. And, Jim says, an inflatable moonbounce.

Donations encouraged

Jim and Trisha Duguay's family ask anyone wishing to make a gift in Trisha's memory to donate to the Atlanta-based Brain Tumor Foundation for Children (www.braintumorkids.org). 
 
Burial:
Unknown
 
Created by: In Memory Of My DAD
Record added: Sep 24, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 59133323
Trisha Rushing Duguay
Added by: In Memory Of My DAD
 
Trisha Rushing Duguay
Added by: In Memory Of My DAD
 
Trisha Rushing Duguay
Added by: In Memory Of My DAD
 
 
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- In Memory Of My DAD
 Added: Aug. 4, 2013

- Pat
 Added: Dec. 16, 2012

- Happiness/Love
 Added: Oct. 11, 2012
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