Sun Prairie woman defies odds to care for deathly ill husband - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Sun Prairie woman defies odds to care for deathly ill husband herself


SUN PRAIRIE (WKOW) -- A Sun Prairie woman amazes doctors after caring for her deathly ill husband at home with no medical background. Not only that, but he had a complex set of medical issues so rare doctors thought even if he stayed in the hospital he wouldn't last more than a few months. But she took care of him and he lived for four years.

Jean Elaine Farwell fell in love with Jacques Bouthillier after meeting in an online support group. She had just left an abusive, 28-year-marriage. He was dealing with the unexpected death of a girlfriend. Jean remembers him, saying, "He had the cutest French accent. When I saw him face to face, it was just something connected between us." 

They were married two years later. Four years after that, Jacques got sick. First doctors diagnosed him with leukemia. Then, a rare auto-immune disease called Mucous Membrane Pemphigoid. And just a few months later, he was diagnosed with another rare and life-threatening auto-immune disease called Bronchiolitis Obliterans. Jean says, "They didn't know how to treat it because they didn't find anyone else in the U.S. medical journals or Canada who had all three of these diseases all at the same time."

The diseases left Jacques on a ventilator barely able to move at all. He couldn't communicate, so Jean came up with a way they could "talk" by using the buttons on a phone. It was their own type of Morse code.

Life went on that way for the next year. "He was in the ICU for a year," Jeans says. "After that one year they wanted to move him up to the 6th floor, which would have been long-term care and my husband was horrified. He was devastated and he wanted to be home. They suggested maybe if I learned a few things, maybe, I could take him home eventually and I said, 'Hurry up and teach me!'"

Jacques needed the skills of a respiratory therapist to keep him alive, so Jean learned how to do it all. "Doctors told me later, regardless if I took him home or not, they didn't expect him to live 1,2,3 months at the very most."

But he lived at home for four years. And Jacques didn't just survive, he thrived. He got strong enough to repair model trains for a local ice cream shop; he was able to drive again and enjoy life. He did have bad days. Jean had to save his life more than once.

Then in 2010, Jean found out she was sick. She had uterine cancer. "They told me know that you need chemo and radiation, you need to put Jacques into the hospital."

Instead, Jean taught several volunteers how to care for Jacques while she went through treatment. But by the time she was done with chemo, Jacques had passed away. "We had his funeral on a Saturday and that Monday I was scheduled to start my radiation treatments at the same hospital where he had died. That was rough."

Rough, Jean says, but worth it all. "I was pleased to do it for Jacques. I would have done it for many, many more years because I loved the man so much and he was always such a good patient!"

Jean wrote a book about Jacques. She says he was the amazing one for everything he did for himself. The book is called The Garnet Ring and it's available here.


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