‘The heart didn’t fail:’ Jen on late fiancé, 39

Despite waiting 174 days for a new heart, a Farragut man’s journey has come to a tragic ending.

Steve Smith, 39, died May 22 of a brain bleed and stroke five days after receiving a new heart at Indianapolis University Hospital.

“The heart didn’t fail, and it wasn’t rejected,” said his long-time fiancée Jen Celeste. “He fought to the very last minute, but his body just couldn’t handle it any more.”

The effects of a failing heart, which ultimately caused his kidneys to fail, too, had taken an enormous toll on Smith’s body since untreated pneumonia in 2014 led to heart failure.

That occurred even before Mr. Smith met Celeste, and she said from the beginning they knew what they could be facing as they moved forward, with Smith adopting Celeste’s son, Andrew, while they welcomed son, Remington, two years ago.

“However, it never stopped us from building our lives together,” she said.

Smith was born and raised in Indianapolis, but the couple called Farragut home. Together nearly five years, they were in the midst of remodeling their home when Smith traveled to Indianapolis last November for what they believed would be a routine check-up.

Instead, his worsening condition led him to a hospital stay of 197 days. As he was finally placed on the transplant list, Celeste and Remington temporarily relocated to Indianapolis, awaiting the surgery, which finally occurred Monday, May 17. During that time, the three were finally able to spend time together after the hospital’s COVID-19 shutdowns were lifted.

“The baby and I were at the hospital nearly every single day,” she said.

While awaiting both the heart and a kidney transplant, Smith endured repeated dialysis, surgeries and procedures, which kept him alive until the needed organs became available. Complications cancelled the planned kidney transplant while doctors worked to stabilize Mr. Smith.

“His heart surgeon was my rock during that week,” Celeste said. “They did everything they could, but when the time finally came, and he told me there was no hope, I knew that was it.”

In addition to Andrew and Remington, Mr. Smith had two daughters, Jayzeonna and India.

While Mr. Smith will be buried in his hometown, Celeste and her sons are holding a memorial service and Celebration of Life from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, June 5, in Milestones Event Center next door to Click Funeral Home Farragut Chapel.

“I would really love everybody in the community to come in memory of him, and to continue their support of our family,” she said.

Celeste and Remington, along with her mother, Laurie Eldridge, and Andrew, sadly returned to Farragut earlier this week.

“Steve and I both said how much we just wanted to go home,” she said. “The house was finished while we were in Indianapolis, and Steve never got to see it or live in it, so it’s just so hard going home without him.”

But she was quick to thank all their friends and well-wishers who had been praying for them and supporting them throughout Smith’s journey.

“We appreciate so much the love and support and encouragement we have had,” she said softly. “People have been wonderful and helped us on our journey so much. Now, I just want to honor so many things he wanted for us.”

In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations in Steven’s name to Donate Life America; Organ, Eye, and Tissue Donation, a cause, understandably, “very near and dear to us,” Celeste said.