One Last Dance: Irondequoit couple faces flu, amputations, and now terminal cancer with grace
IRONDEQUOIT, N.Y. (WHEC) — Dwayne Reed was in his mid-twenties when he met Tracy, and 30 years later, the two still act like newlyweds.
“She’s so compassionate, she’s so caring, she’s so loving…people that meet her just fall in love with her and you can’t help but fall in love with her she’s just such a beautiful person,” Dwayne said about his wife.
The feeling is mutual.
“He’s gentle, he’s loving, he has such faith and he is a protector and a provider, he’s just been my everything,” Tracy said of her husband.
At their wedding, they danced to “Everything I Do” by Bryan Adams and in the decades since, it’s been somewhat of an anthem of their lives.
The Reeds have raised three daughters and continue to spoil their six grandchildren.
“That’s home… that’s what blesses you, hearing them laugh, just the laughter in the house that’s what makes your heart glad,” Dwayne said.
On a Saturday morning in 2019, Dwayne wasn’t feeling well. He went to a local urgent care and was diagnosed with the flu. He continued to deteriorate at home and by Monday morning was rushed to the hospital,
“They saw that my blood oxygen was about 78% and really that’s all I remember,” he recalled of that day.
He was put on a ventilator almost right away and Doctors told Tracy to expect the worst.
“You are going to have to get ready to say goodbye,” she recalled being told.
The Reeds are a family of faith and they relied on that heavily over the course of the next six days. Dwayne was kept alive with the help of what’s called an ECMO machine.
“That machine basically pumps all the blood from your extremities to your heart,” explained Tracy.
It worked to keep Dwayne’s heart going and save his life but he would never be the same.
“Basically, the machine that saved my life, helped cause the amputations,” he said.
Dwayne lost both his hands and both his legs. After months in the hospital, he was sent to a rehabilitation center during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Tracy wasn’t allowed inside.
“She’s my pillar, she’s right there, she’s my strength, I’m stronger when she’s with me so, yeah it was definitely hard,” he recalled.
With a team of dedicated nurses and doctors and virtual moral support from his whole family, Dwayne made it home after 200 days.
“To be home again is just phenomenal, it was just incredible to pull in there and see all my family and friends oh my goodness,” he recalled.
Dwayne and Tracey, their daughters, and grandchildren have spent the last year getting used to their new normal which is a lot like the old normal. Lots of card-playing, basketball games, chess matches, and rides on papa’s electric scooter.
Dwayne has a prosthetic arm and has been working hard to get used to his new prosthetic legs because the Reeds have had a goal since this all began.
“We’re going to do our dance, we’re going to do our dance. My wife loves to dance and I want to give her that dance,” Dwayne said.
The couple is getting close, just a few weeks ago Dwayne was able to stand up on both his new legs and give his wife a hug nose to nose.
But it was right around that time, he also started having some stomach and back pains.
“I went in for an ultrasound and they saw some lesions on my liver which gave them cause for concern so, I had a CT scan done and that’s when they found a mass on my pancreas,” Dwayne explained.
A diagnosis of stage 4 cancer, almost a year to the day that Dwayne made it home and back to his family.
“That was the first time I had heard the words uncurable and that was really hard to process,” he said.
Tracy is still trying to process too.
“A lot of people say, you know, ‘God wouldn’t do this’ because he wouldn’t… all you’ve been through, all of that and to get as far as you’ve gotten to just take you down slowly like this, you know — but regardless of the outcome it’s still a love story because we have today and we’ve had a whole 365 days that we spent together and every day is a gift and nobody is promised tomorrow,” Tracy said.
The Reeds hold tight to their faith.
“God has created a miracle before you know, he can do it again,” Tracy said.
But if not, they’re living every day to their fullest.
“I’m very grateful for the time that I have, for each moment that I have,” Dwayne said.
They’re trying to show their kids, grandkids, and anyone else how to live in faith and grace, how to overcome adversity without fear and resentment, and trust in God’s plan.
The Reeds are also determined to get that final dance, to stand in each other’s arms and reflect on a life together that’s served so many others.
“That’s something that we want to experience one more time again, to have the dance, just one slow dance,” Dwayne said.