Memories of Caleb- BHS grad dies too soon
It’s been a little over three weeks since Caleb Zachary Eakin died.
At age 7, the handsome, well-loved, 26-year-old was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis – a genetic disorder that primarily affects the lungs in addition to the intestine, kidneys, pancreas and liver. It also creates long-term issues such as difficulty breathing and coughing up mucus because of frequent lung infections.
In the case of Caleb Eakin and his brother, Kyle, it created the need for lung transplants that come with a survival rate of about 65 percent – or five years.
Caleb received his double lung transplant in April 2015. But his body recently stopped responding to anti-rejection medications and he was admitted to Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas.
His body started shutting down and, at his own request, he was put on a ventilator, his father said. Caleb passed away on Oct. 23 – within minutes of when life support was terminated.
His mother, Malissa Soules Hill, recounted what happened in a text message that was repeated on Facebook.
“He’s gone,” she wrote in the message. “They took out the tube and he passed within a couple of minutes. God’s mercy that it happened quickly. He was ready I guess.”
Caleb’s parents, Warren Eakin and Malissa Soules Hill, were divorced in 2007 and she later remarried.
Attempts to contact Caleb’s mother, including a Facebook friend request, were not immediately successful. But Caleb’s father, Warren Eakin, sat down with a reporter at his apartment home to share memories – and discuss his son’s fantastic life and untimely death.
For the most part, Caleb’s passing has been both heartbreaking and very surreal for his father.
“Since he was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis in 1998, I’ve known that I will most likely outlive him,” Warren Eakin said in one Facebook post. “It has weighed heavily on me through the years, but it was always a future event.”
Warren Eakin said everyone who knew him could see the goodness in his son, a 2010 graduate of Burleson High School.
“He was a kind person who always made people feel welcome,” the father said.
Kyle Eakin, 22, was a big fan of his brother Caleb. In fact, he told his father a story about Caleb that Warren Eakin repeated on Facebook.
“Caleb Eakin was the ultimate big brother,” Kyle told his father. “He always picked on me and Luke just enough to keep us from getting any permanent damage. He would always team up with me to pick on Luke or he’d team up with Luke to pick on me. Our dad always wonders why we never picked on Caleb but I think it’s because we didn’t want to pick on each other, we just wanted to team up with Caleb. Every moment with Caleb was fun and an adventure, from playing in the back.”
Warren Eakin said Caleb was first diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis at age 7 after his sweat was found to be salty – a common symptom. Kyle, 3 at the time, tested positive for Cystic Fibrosis as well.
Kyle’s illness required a lung and a liver transplant six years ago (Caleb and Kyle’s youngest brother Luke, 18, does not have Cystic Fibrosis).
A year and a half before his lung transplant, Caleb became unable to work because he was so sick. But after Caleb’s transplant he blossomed. He flourished, even, his father said.
“He really didn’t know what he wanted to do at first – he went to (community college) for a semester, decided he didn’t like it, worked smaller jobs, then took some more college computer classes and decided that wasn’t for him either,” he said. “Then he got too sick to be able to work, But after (his lung transplant) he decided what he wanted to do.”
Caleb worked toward and a position at Lockheed Martin and at the time of his death had achieved it, his father said.
‘He started doing so well after the transplant – no complications and within two months he was driving,” his father said. “He was working on his first job as a delivery driver from Pizza Hut and he made good money, saved it up. He had been living with me but he moved out on his own. He lived in a house with two roommates, his cousin and a close friend, first in an apartment and then in a house. … He was doing so well but on his birthday he went to the emergency room with his mom because was not feeling good and they hospitalized him to keep a close eye on him.”
When his body stopped responding to anti-rejection medication, Caleb was admitted to the hospital, where he went through treatment for five days.
He started feeling and doing better, so he was sent home from the hospital for four days, his father said.
After those four days, he got sick again and went up back in the hospital.
Doctors could not administer the same plasma treatment Caleb had responded to earlier because a complication had developed, his father said.
“There wasn’t that much they could do after that,” Warren Eakin said.
Caleb was in the hospital on Sept. 27, his birthday, out on Oct. 12, back in on Oct. 17 and died there the morning of Oct. 23.
“It was pretty fast,” his father said.
Warren Eakin said his son’s lung transplant didn’t stop him from living life to the fullest. Three of his former girlfriends attended his funeral.
In a post, Lauren Hernandez of San Antonio describes Caleb as one of her favorite people in the entire world.
“I always knew Caleb as a fighter – even when he felt his weakest, he was strong,” she wrote. “He was incredibly loving, caring, and (as I would always call him) a total goober. I loved him so so much. And I already miss him terribly. My heart is overwhelmed with grief. But I know he isn’t in pain anymore. He doesn’t have to fight anymore. I know he rests in paradise where God has breathed new and everlasting life into him. I’ll see you again soon, Caleb. I love you.”
Caleb also drew lines in the sand because of his illness. He told his father he didn’t want kids because he didn’t so want to pass Cystic Fibrosis on to them. Also, he had no idea how long he would live.
As kids, Caleb and Kyle went through twice a day breathing treatments plus percussion to loosen up anything in their lungs. And a long list of medicines.
But Caleb didn’t have as much Cystic Fibrosis-related problems as his brother Kyle. In high school, for instance, Caleb played soccer and football.
“But then it caught up with him,” his father said.
Warren Eakin remembered how nervous his son was in the hospital, just before he passed away.
“He could tell his lungs weren’t doing so well,” he said. “He requested they put him on the respirator and sedate him – he felt that bad – and he was out after that. But that Thursday I was with him in his room and kept saying ‘Talk to me.’ They gave him Zane for anxiety but it wasn’t working. The treatments were not working.”
In a Facebook post, his mother said after discussing it with his brothers they all agreed to allow Caleb to become a tissue donor.
“Their response was ‘Of course,’ ” she wrote. “ I love this! I knew his dad would agree even without asking. I’m forever thankful to the family that donated Caleb’s lungs and so grateful that we could make that decision for Caleb to donate.”
Funeral services were October, 26, 2017, at Crestmont Baptist Church in Burleson. He was buried in Tye Cemetery.
Warren Eakin continues to discuss and publish very touching posts regarding his memories of his son.
• “When he was two, his mother took him to the grocery store. He was in the cart as she was shopping, when he loudly began to say, ‘You’re not my mommy, where’s my mommy? Where’s my mommy?’ The more she tried to shush him, the more he said it. She was so worried the police would be called. Finally, once he got bored of the game, he quit. Now how does a 2-year-old even think to come up with something like that? Rofl, that was our Caleb.”
• “On Easter Sunday when he was 4 or 5, he came out of children’s church. When asked what he learned, he said Jesus went to the grave and came back a rose. ‘You mean he arose?’ No, he insisted his teacher said Jesus came back ‘a rose.’ It took some convincing to get him to understand what ‘arose’ meant.”
• “In 2008, I was a chaperone for a Crestmont youth camp. Both Caleb Eakin and Kyle Eakin went also. One day, I was in the lunch line at the cafeteria. There were about four teenage girls from another church behind me, laughing and talking like girls that age do. Caleb comes strolling by. They immediately start talking and giggling among themselves about how cute he was. Caleb, of course, is oblivious to it all. I don’t think he ever realized how handsome he was.”