By Matthew Hendley
By Monica Alonzo
By Monica Alonzo
By Monica Alonzo
By Stephen Lemons
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Dulce Paloma Baltazar Pedraza
By Ray Stern
Tashi spent the night at her friend's house, pondering how things had gone so horribly wrong. She returned home the next day. Her 23rd birthday was that Monday, and she didn't want to be a 23-year-old divorcee. But what choice did she have? And what was wrong with Kevin?
That Sunday, the truth came out.
Since it was the day before Tashi's birthday, her friends and family had planned a party. Not a
party party — all Tashi wanted was to play board games.
Before they headed over, Kevin volunteered to get takeout from Baja Fresh. He'd been complaining of a headache, but otherwise seemed okay, so Tashi gave him her order.
It should have been a short walk from the couple's Tempe townhome. He should have been back in 20 minutes, tops.
Instead, 30 minutes later, Tashi was greeted by a heavy knock on the door.
Standing there, she says, was a Hispanic family. They looked petrified.
"We found this guy in the middle of the street," one of them explained. "We didn't hit him! He said he lives here." And there was Kevin, with absolutely no explanation of how he'd ended up in the street, being cared for by strangers.
Weirdest of all? In Kevin's hands was a Baja Fresh bag — full of fish tacos.
Tashi is a vegetarian. And Kevin has always hated the taste of fish.
"I've never seen him eat seafood, ever," Tashi says.
He couldn't explain his menu choices, either. "I need to sleep," he kept saying. "I need to sleep."
So Kevin went to bed, and Tashi went to her party with a heavy heart. It was a mistake. All she could think about was Kevin.
"Everyone's there except the person I really wanted to be enjoying this day with," she says.
But Tashi's sadness turned to worry, and then fear, when she called Kevin to check in.
He didn't answer. She called again.
And again, and again. He didn't pick up.
"I know it's my party," she told the guests, "but I have to leave. Something's not right." Her mother dropped her off at the townhouse.
But when she walked in the door, Kevin was not on the couch. He wasn't on the bed, either.
Tashi found him on the bathroom floor — in a fetal position in a pool of urine. He was hitting the back of his head, over and over, against the bathtub.
"Kevin!" she cried. "Kevin!" One of his pupils wasn't reacting. The other stared at her.
"Don't leave me alone," he said weakly.
Frantically, Tashi called her mother, who was only a few blocks away. They loaded Kevin in the car — he was still mostly incoherent — and raced to St. Luke's Hospital, just a few blocks away.
At the emergency room, Tashi nearly shouted at the intake workers.
"My husband is having severe neurological issues," she cried. "He needs a CAT scan, now!"
They got him in to a doctor in less than five minutes.
Later that night, the physician on duty summoned Tashi and asked her to sit down. He told her that Kevin had a "mass" on his brain, and that it was around eight centimeters. He didn't know if it was tissue, blood, or a tumor. They needed to send him to Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph's Hospital.
They needed to send him immediately.
When Kevin arrived at Barrow at 1 a.m., Tashi was there with him. And it was there that morning that everything began to sink in.
Kevin was very, very sick — and he had been for a long time.
Kevin's odd behavior, depression, lethargy, and even his "panic attacks" weren't the signs of a nervous breakdown. And they didn't indicate that Tashi had married the wrong man. They were something physical.
Kevin could die.
It was all happening so quickly. And they were so very young.
It was so weird sitting there in the hospital that morning, trying to fill out the requisite stacks of paperwork, trying to comprehend that this was their new reality.
"This is my 23rd birthday," Tashi told herself, stunned. "This is my 23rd birthday."
By the time of Kevin's collapse that Sunday, Kevin and Tashi still hadn't gotten around to telling their parents that they were married.
The Pratts had met Tashi the previous Thanksgiving at their home in California, and liked her. "He needed someone very bright, and intellectually they were equals," says Kevin's mom, Marie Franke. "They could spar with each other." But Kevin's parents still thought they were meeting his girlfriend, not his fiancée.
The truth came out at the hospital.
That Sunday, Tashi had called Kevin's mom even before arriving at the emergency room. Something was seriously wrong, she explained. Kevin's parents needed to get to Phoenix as soon as possible.
Kevin's mom got on a flight at six the next morning. His dad, Chuck Pratt, found someone to take care of the house and watch the dog, then hopped in his car and raced southwest. (Although the drive is supposed to take 14 hours, Pratt did it in 12. "I drove like a madman," he admits.)