Eagles of Death Metal singer Jesse Hughes paced back and forth outside the Mountain View Convalescent Hospital in Sylmar, Calif., on a humid afternoon on March 15. The 49-year-old barely slept the night before, his lids heavy, his hair slicked back into a tight braid with a pink hair tie, smoking a cigarette, as he anxiously counted down the minutes until he was allowed to see the love of his life again.
His fiancée, 31-year-old Marina Cardenas — better known as EODM’s bassist and keyboardist Tuesday Cross — has been comatose since Jan. 23, after suffering brain damage. It had been 51 days since he last saw her.
“Is it time yet?” he asked his attorney Alexandra Snyder via phone, a hint of sadness in his eyes, his voice trembling. “I don’t know what I will do if I can’t see her today. Please.”
The day before, when Hughes had a scheduled visit and attempted to see Cross, he waited outside the facility for an hour or so, but no one answered the door. He was not sure if today would be any different.
As Billboard first reported last week, Cross had been at Glendale Memorial Hospital in a vegetative state for approximately six weeks since an asthma attack sent her into cardiac arrest. The hospital chose to take direction from Cross’ mother, Maria Virginia Gaytan, who blocked Hughes from seeing or communicating with her daughter or receiving any health updates, even though he has documentation that Cross gave him power of attorney over her healthcare last year. On March 8, Glendale Hospital transferred Cross to Mountain View without Hughes’ or his attorney’s knowledge, which was revealed in a Los Angeles Superior Court hearing on March 11. (At the hearing, Judge Daniel Juarez ruled that Hughes had visitation rights at the new facility and that he could and should be informed by Gaytan about any decision-making moving forward. Judge Juarez said he did not want to rule on the power of attorney yet and would like all parties involved to resolve the matter themselves, so he doesn’t have to make that decision, with the next hearing in the matter set for April 22.)
Hughes tugged on his black sweater vest, adjusted his shades, the mirrored lenses of which reflected the trio of close friends Laura Garcia, Jennifer Ortega and Julian Major — who all found Cross struggling to breathe on the kitchen floor and rushed her to Glendale Memorial in late January — fidgeting exhaustedly in an SUV before him.
But his path was set. Hughes nodded along, a black mask covering his face, as the chief nurse told him that they received a copy of Cross’ power of attorney document and that they had determined that Hughes would oversee Cross’ healthcare. “I was giddy on the inside. It meant a lot to me,” said Hughes. “It was the first time anyone recognized or validated that Tuesday chose me to take care of her and that I even love her — that I should have been with her all along. That was one of the biggest insults and hardest things that I had to take — that anyone would question my love for her or that I should not be present at all. I always wanted the best care for her. It has always been about her.”
As Hughes walked down the long hallway toward Cross’ room, he realized that everything he had been fighting for was over. Suddenly, it hit him. He was scared. Really scared. What if she looked unrecognizable? What if he reacted the wrong way? What if she wasn’t alive? All the pain and suffering he endured, while not being able to see her, consumed him. “I was worried, thinking, ‘How much more can I take?”’ said Hughes. He started to pray. “Lord, please help me,” he muttered to himself, panicking. “Give me strength. I am so, so scared. Help me through this.”
As he peered around the curtain, he saw her. Cross was alive. A state of shock overcame him. His worries instantly faded, as she was awake and no longer in a coma. As a fan was blowing air on her face, she blinked, her eyes were moving, and she was breathing on her own without a ventilator. Her fingernails were dirty, her skin was peeling, and Hughes said she had not been washed in over two months. (Mountain View is unable to discuss any details of Cross’ care as it would violate HIPAA.)
But as Cross lay there, her dark chocolate eyes opened wider, silently watching Hughes. Her eyes followed him as he moved around the room. She started mouthing words, but nothing came out. “You’re beautiful,” he said to her. He cried as she stared at him. He held her hand, and she touched and squeezed it, even pulling on his fingertips for a moment. When he kissed her lips, she kissed him back.
“I never gave up on her because I always had a feeling that one day she would wake up,” said Hughes, crying, his head in his hands. He was told by Mountain View Convalescent Hospital that she was out of a coma when they transferred her to their facility after 5 p.m. on March 8. Although Hughes is not sure what date she awoke, Cross’ mother, Gaytan, texted Billboard and said, “I don’t really know the date, but it was possibly a week or two after her tracheostomy” — which took place on Feb. 4, according to court records. “Then she started breathing on her own little by little.” According to a legal response from the hospital, Leah Nubla, director of quality at Glendale Memorial, wrote on March 11, “According to the medical records, as of the date of this Declaration, the patient remains in a comatose state.”
“At least she’s alive,” said Hughes. “She is lucid, and she understands when I talk to her. Everything I had been through was worth it. It was immediately worth it, all of it. She is with me now. When Tuesday recognized me, it was the best moment of my life. The only thing that matters now is her. In that second, I knew I could take on anything else — all of it — just for the ability to be with her again and help her through this.”
As Hughes stroked her face, she started sweating. Cross flailed her arms and unshaven legs, in a seizure-like state. The nurses warned him that this might happen because he had not seen her in so long. “Baby, calm down,” he said. Agitated, she looked at him, her eyes focused on his movements. She suddenly stopped, moving her body closer to him. He touched her face and kissed her again. He placed his head next to hers, their noses touching, as he stroked her matted hair. He smelled her — she smelled the way she always had. He touched the scar over her eyebrow from when it was pierced. He was breathing in her breath, feeling her pulse. “I love you,” he said, looking into her eyes. “I will always love you.”
Cross looked at him deeply. Hughes vowed that he would never leave her again. “I’m not going anywhere now,” he said to her. “And no one is going to stop me anymore. I know you are in there and you are going to talk and walk again. No one is going to tell me differently. You are walking out of here, baby. I promise, we will get through this together.”
Three days later, Hughes went for another visit. He is allowed only two visits for 45 minutes a week right now because of COVID protocols, but the facility has been allowing him to drop by with her belongings and spend 30 minutes with her. Hughes said that he gave permission for Gaytan to visit her daughter, offering her one of his two days, but according to him, she has not responded to his messages and has not visited her daughter in eight days. (Hughes must be notified by the facility and approve visitations per his POA). Billboard has not communicated with Gaytan since March 14, despite multiple attempts.
Cross was moved into a different room with air conditioning and a television. Hughes flipped through the channels, landing on Investigation Discovery, one of her favorites. Now, per Hughes’ request, she was bathed, her legs shaved, with her hair combed and swept in a bun. She was dressed in his Cheetah shirt and socks — two of her most treasured clothing items — that Hughes had given the facility on his first visit. “They had everything on her that I brought her, like it mattered to both of us,” he said. “She looked so much better. She looked alert, her mannerisms and her movements were all remarkably more determined.”
After five minutes, her feeding apparatus was getting pinched, so the alarm kept sounding. A nurse walked in, and Jesse quickly moved out of the way. Cross was looking at him, then at the nurse. She seemed upset. When Jesse ventured to the other side of the bed, he said, “Baby, I’m over here.” Cross turned her head and smiled at him for the first time. Hughes smiled back.
“Did you just squeeze my hand, girl?” he said to her playfully, as he lay next to her on the hospital bed. “When I am in there with her, I am trying to keep myself lighthearted and keep her encouraged. Sometimes it is exceedingly difficult because I am so overcome. Every element of this, I have barely been able to process, you know, ever since the moment I found her dying on the floor. But every single day, she is slowly getting better.”
As the light peeked through the hospital window, Hughes was even more thankful to see another day with her. He is still in shock at what has happened, but he is grateful for his family and friends who have been visiting him around the clock. He decided that he is going to take his time accessing what her long-term care needs are moving forward. He is looking into a few facilities, but he is happy with the treatment she is now receiving. “The nurse told me that I have every right to distrust them right now, but there is no way anyone is going to be harvesting her organs,” he said. “She was trying to make it clear what their intentions were with Tuesday. It meant so much to me. They care about her.”
Soon, a UCLA surgeon will be visiting Cross to determine if she can have her tracheostomy removed. Lately, she has been licking her lips and swallowing. Hughes bought $500 splints that Medi-Cal had not approved yet, so she can start her physical therapy immediately. “Now there is an expectation that it is even possible for her to get better and recover, which is what crushed me in the beginning with Glendale hospital. They wanted her to be pulled off life support. There was no consideration for the possibility before,” said Hughes. “Now there is.” (As Billboard reported in our original story, a spokesperson for Glendale Memorial Hospital said they “cannot disclose any information regarding any patient due to HIPAA regulations and California privacy laws.”)
As he wiped his tears away, he took a deep breath, exhaling. “In a few days, she’s shown more progress than she has in the entire previous months,” he said, proudly. “And I guess it just goes to show when you acknowledge someone is trying to recover, give them the opportunity and you have faith, anything is possible,” he said, pausing for a moment. “She is finally improving. She has an army of people who support and believe in her. It is Tuesday’s Army. She is a fighter. She is our miracle.”