This is Their Story – A Father-in-Law’s Beautiful Heart

Tiffany Boyte had just gotten out of a long term relationship and had recently started running her family’s business. She was working, enjoying time with friends and family, and just really wanted to take time to realize who she was again. 

She had no desire to date any time soon. That was until she met Andrew West, a soccer player from Scotland that had just graduated from Belhaven College in 2018.

As they spent more time together, Tiffany started to think that maybe this was going beyond being friends. Two months after meeting, Andrew was scheduled to travel back to Scotland for three months to visit his family as he did every year while being in school.

The newly dating couple decides to continue their relationship long-distance, knowing that Andrew would return to the states after his visit. Tiffany had no idea what the next three months would hold for them.

Only three weeks into Andrew’s visit back to Scotland, his mother dies of cardiac arrest. She happened to be in South Africa on a surprise visit to see her sister. With no warning signs or symptoms, her heart just stops causing her death at only 63 years old.

Photo credit by Style + Brand Photography

Both Andrew’s parents, Dennis and Christy West, had recently retired. They were planning to travel, play golf and enjoy retirement, when tragedy struck. “It was just a terrible time,” Tiffany explained “everyone was in shock. It was just awful. We had pretty recently started dating, he’s in Scotland, I’m here, and his mother has just died of a heart attack.” 

Andrew and Tiffany’s relationship continued to grow stronger over the course of the next three months while Andrew was away. During that time Tiffany mentions that their verbal and mental connection became extremely strong due to the fact they were physically apart. 

Tiffany shares the first time she went to Scotland to meet Andrew’s family. “I was so excited to jump on a plane and see this guy [Andrew] that had stolen my heart. I was also so nervous about meeting his family. With the passing of Christy, it showed us that life is short and if you have to jump on a plane to meet the family then you do it. Meeting Dennis [Andrew’s father] for the first time was an amazing feeling. I remember he walked into his kitchen after his round of golf to find Andrew and I there. Him, Andrew’s brothers and even Andrew always made me feel so loved and accepted.  Dennis has one of those smiles that just immediately makes you feel good and makes you want to smile back. He’s the type of man to jump on a plane last minute just to be present in the moment. I’ve never fit in so well with a family and I am so lucky to now be a member of this one! I genuinely am so blessed to have found the West Family.”

Andrew returned home from his summer in Scotland and early the following year he asked Tiffany to marry him. They were so excited about starting their life together that they began planning the wedding immediately. Coming from two different parts of the world, they were finding it difficult to figure out how to get their family and friends together to be part of this very special occasion. During this time, Dennis began complaining that he was having shortness of breath.

After retiring at 68 from the banking industry, Dennis became Head Master for all the golf courses in St. Andrews. He assisted with tournaments and organized events which kept him extremely busy. Always on the go, he began to find himself getting more and more tired. He was having shortness of breath and just not feeling well. After seeing his general practitioner, he was referred to a cardiologist for further testing. 

At that time it was discovered that one of Dennis’ arteries was calcified causing one of his major aortic valves to collapse. Coronary artery calcification (CAC) is the buildup of calcium in the arteries, which can cause blood vessels to narrow and lead to the development of heart disease. 

Coronary artery disease is thought to begin with damage or injury to the inner layer of a coronary artery, sometimes as early as childhood. The damage may be caused by various factors, including: smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or insulin resistance or a sedentary lifestyle.

Once the inner wall of an artery is damaged, fatty deposits or plaque made of cholesterol tend to accumulate at the site of injury in a process called atherosclerosis. If the surface of the plaque breaks or ruptures, blood cells called platelets will clump at the site to try to repair the artery. This clump can block the artery, leading to a heart attack.

Photo credit: Style + Brand Photography

In order to correct the problem, Dennis had a synthetic valve put in to allow the blood to flow properly. It was a procedure that ultimately saved his life. 

Dennis was recovering and slowly getting better.  Tiffany and Andrew knew that life was just too short and they were ready to begin their life together. “Nothing ever seemed to work out for planning the wedding. Dennis was ok and was healing and we finally felt like we could breath. So we just said one day ‘lets do it’!”

Within just a few weeks they planned their wedding and decided to get married in the states, then travel to Scotland to have a small service and reception with Andrew’s family. With Dennis’ post op being only a month out, they knew he wouldn’t be able to attend the wedding. 

The day before the wedding, Tiffany and Andrew had gone to make sure everything was ready at the venue. As Tiffany walks towards Andrew she sees him talking to a man and Andrew seems to be in shock. Immediately she thought something had gone wrong with the location, but as she walks closer she realized the man was Dennis. He had flown half way across the world to be with his son on his wedding day. Nothing was going to keep him away. Not even open heart surgery. 

Photo credit: Jennifer Nicholson Photography

“Having him [Dennis] on this earth was the greatest gift but having him present for our big day was priceless. Dennis is now healthy and happy living his active life thanks to the amazing doctors that caught and fixed his beautifully big heart,” Tiffany shared.

Dennis was one of the lucky ones. Cardiovascular disease kills more Americans each year than any other disease and nearly half of all U.S. adults have some type of cardiovascular disease. 

February is American Heart Month, a time the nation turns its attention to keeping families and communities free from heart disease.

The first proclamation was issued by President Lyndon B. Johnson in February 1964, nine years after he had a heart attack. Since then, the president has annually declared February American Heart Month. The federally designated event reinforces the importance of heart health and the need for more research.

Get a regular check-up. Recognize the symptoms. Don’t disregard those feelings that something isn’t right. Stop smoking. Eat better. Get more sleep. Fight for your health. See your children get married.

Special thank you to Metro Jackson Heart Association, Kerri Chaney of Style + Brand Photography, Amy Steed Heard of Once Upon a Dress Madison, The Chapel at Livingston, and Courtney Merck or Amour Z Salon and Spa and Allie Grace Bell.

Emily Hunt

Emily is the founder and owner of Magnolia Moms. She and her husband Chris live in Madison, MS with their two little girls, Lila and Ella. Emily works full time in the Financial Services industry where she is driven by her passion to help women become more financially stable. She is an avid Mississippi State fan and can be found most weekends watching the Dawgs! She loves wine and unsweetened tea and could eat chips and salsa for most meals. Most importantly she loves sharing her stories and thoughts with all the fantastic Magnolia Moms readers.

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