Living through a health emergency has a way of showing us what really matters in life.
Viktoria Cupay of Chicago, Illinois was having a long-distance relationship with Nick Baldo of San Francisco, California when she suddenly became very ill in 2019. She lives with the autoimmune disease lupus, so when she developed a high fever, she assumed it was another flare-up.
When she didn’t get better, Viktoria’s mother brought her to the hospital, and everything went south fast. The 23-year-old developed blisters on her skin, which doctors diagnosed as the rare disease Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS), and toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN), a more severe form of SJS.
SJS and TEN affect less than 5,000 people in the United States. Since SJS/TEN blisters and rashes are often painful, doctors consider the diagnosis an emergency. Viktoria’s doctors said she’d developed the disease due to an allergic reaction to medication. She was sent straight to the intensive care unit where she was placed in a medically induced coma.
Viktoria was in a coma for the next month. She had a tracheostomy and a gastrostomy tube placed to help her breathe and eat. She lost her hair and was so frail and thin she had to learn how to walk again when she woke up. She wound up spending 240 days in the hospital.
“I was 23 at that time,” Viktoria recalled. “At that age, you would think that you would be living your best life but no, I was learning how to walk and talk and eat again. There were moments where I just wanted to give up. But I had the best support system and I owe them my recovery.”
One person in her corner was Nick. While she was in the coma, he dropped everything and moved from San Francisco to Chicago to be by her side!
Just before Viktoria was going to be awakened from her coma, Nick asked her mother for permission to marry her. Then he came to the hospital and popped the question with his grandmother’s ring right there in the ICU.
Viktoria could not believe the condition of her body after the coma. She was especially honored that Nick chose to stay with her in spite of her struggles.
“The right person will make no excuses and will choose to love you even at your worst,” she reflected on TikTok.
Nick and Viktoria tied the knot exactly three years after getting engaged in the hospital. She shared a video of their enduring love story online, and it went viral.
Now, Viktoria hopes to inspire other people living with chronic illnesses. She has fully recovered from SJS and TEN, but still lives with lupus, which has no cure. She’s now an advocate for people with lupus and SJS/TEN. She’s fully enjoying the second chance at life she was given!
“Looking back at it, it’s crazy how far I’ve come,” said Viktoria. “I’m in awe as well. That’s why I want to share my story because I have been there, I have been at the lowest point in my life and I’m hoping that when someone hears this story, that it might be the story that they needed to hear to keep going as well.”
What a horrible ordeal! Nick really showed his true character as he stood by Viktoria’s side. We wish them both a lifetime of joy and good health.
Don’t forget to share this story of survival, strength, and true love.
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