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How to Cope with Health Issues in Marriage – #CouplesTalk

Ello and welcome to Couples Talk, a platform dedicated to sharing the experiences of couples who have faced and conquered life’s challenges together. I’m Jonathan Decker, a licensed therapist and self-proclaimed love machine, joined by my wife, Alicia Decker. Today, we have the pleasure of hosting Ilija and Katie, a couple whose journey through serious health challenges has tested and strengthened their bond. Join us as we dive deep into their story, discussing their hardships, acceptance, and the power of resilience.

Health Challenges: A Rocky Start

Ilija and Katie’s story begins in 2004 when they tied the knot, embarking on a journey that would test their love and commitment in profound ways. Just one year into their marriage, both fell seriously ill while at college. Katie quickly recovered, but Ilija’s condition took a worrying turn, leading to a week of illness that culminated in him urinating blood. It was clear that something was seriously wrong. The diagnosis was both shocking and ominous – IGA nephropathy, an autoimmune disease that could lead to kidney failure and necessitate a transplant.

Options and Uncertainty

The medical professionals offered three possible scenarios for Ilija’s future, none of which provided much comfort. The uncertainty loomed large: either he might never need a kidney transplant, require one rapidly in the next five years, or face it in his forties or fifties. This heavy revelation served as an ominous backdrop to their young marriage, casting a long shadow over their future.

Acceptance and Optimism

Despite the daunting prognosis, Katie remained resolutely optimistic. She believed that through a holistic approach, diet, and lifestyle changes, they could overcome Ilija’s autoimmune condition. Her unwavering faith in their ability to change the course of this disease was a beacon of hope during their tumultuous journey.

Resilience in the Face of Stress

Stress played a significant role in Ilija’s health struggles. As an entrepreneur juggling the demands of his business and a family of five children, the stress level was consistently high. It’s a common challenge that many couples face when health issues strike – the stress can exacerbate existing problems. For Ilija and Katie, the stress correlated with a decline in Ilija’s kidney function.

A Near-Death Experience: Heart Issues

The unexpected plot twist in their journey came when Ilija suffered a near-death experience. In 2015, Ilija’s heart stopped, and he was resuscitated in the hospital. The culprit was a pericardial effusion, where fluid accumulated around his heart, compromising its ability to beat. The severity of this incident marked a turning point in their health journey, propelling Ilija’s kidney issues to the forefront.

Radical Acceptance: A Turning Point

Katie’s approach to Ilija’s health took a significant shift as they confronted the real possibility of a kidney transplant. She realized that she needed to let Ilija take charge of his own health while focusing on her well-being as well. The concept of radical acceptance became a guiding principle. They found solace in accepting the things they couldn’t change and channeling their energy into what they could influence.

Embracing the Power of Acceptance

Coming to terms with the fact that Ilija might not make it or could suffer for an extended period was an emotionally arduous journey for Katie. However, she eventually arrived at a place of acceptance. She recognized that their struggles had the potential to make them stronger, no matter the outcome. Embracing radical acceptance gave her the peace and resilience to navigate their challenges.

The Magic of Leaning into Faith

Katie aptly described their situation as wanting the Red Sea to part without actually being in the desperate situation where it needed to part. The Vrajichs found the strength to lean on their faith, recognizing that their trials offered opportunities to witness incredible miracles. Their journey was challenging, marked by ER trips, dialysis, and the looming prospect of a kidney transplant, yet the experience brought them closer and allowed them to witness the hand of God in their lives.


The story of Ilija and Katie Vrajich serves as a testament to the power of resilience, acceptance, and faith in the face of overwhelming health challenges. It’s a story of how a couple’s love grew stronger through adversity, teaching them the importance of embracing what they couldn’t change, leaning on their faith, and witnessing the magic of miracles.

In your own lives, remember that hardships can either make you or break you. Ilija and Katie’s journey shows us that, when faced with challenges, it’s possible to find strength, growth, and hope in the most unexpected places. The Vrajichs have shown us that, even when facing the most daunting of trials, it’s possible to keep shining your light, and you will come out stronger on the other side.

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