Country star Randy Travis was so close to death after a stroke that medical professionals advised his partner to pull the plug on his life support. However, Mary Davis refused to give up on the man she would later marry. Here’s a story that serves as a testament to the power of faith.
Born in North Carolina in 1959, Randy Travis began performing aged ten with his brother at local talent contests. But after quitting high school, he spent more time getting in trouble with the law than showcasing his musical prowess. After one particular encounter in the late 1970s, Travis was warned he’d face a long jail sentence if he ever faced court again.
Travis got his act together when he was taken under the wing of club owner Lib Hatcher, who not only became his manager but also his future wife. After several false starts, his career took off in 1985 with Top 10 single, “1982.” A year later he topped the country charts with “On the Other Hand” and Grammy-winning “Diggin’ Up Bones.”
Travis consolidated the success of his debut LP, Storms of Life, with 1987’s Always & Forever, which produced four more chart-toppers. He went on to score a total of 16 number one singles and six platinum albums. He’s also picked up six awards at both the Grammys and CMAs, and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
As well as being one of the leading figures on the neotraditionalist country scene, Travis has enjoyed success with more Christian-oriented material too, winning several Dove Awards. He has also branched out into acting, landing film roles in The Rainmaker, Black Dog and Texas Rangers. On the small screen he played Sheriff Wayne Machulis for five episodes of Touched by an Angel.
Unfortunately, Travis had recently grabbed more headlines for his turbulent personal life than his music. In February 2012 he was arrested after being discovered smelling of alcohol in a parked car. Just six months later he was found in a similar state lying naked on a road in Grayson County. It turns out he had crashed his car in a building site.
Travis was subsequently arrested for DUI, and for threatening Texas Highway Patrol officers during their attempt to apprehend him. He’d also walked fully nude into a Tiger Mart store earlier that evening for a pack of cigarettes. After pleading guilty to the charges, the star was put on two years’ probation and given a 180-day suspended prison sentence.
In July 2013 Travis made the news again after being taken into a Dallas hospital for what he believed to be congestion. Instead doctors diagnosed him with walking pneumonia and sent him home. But just 24 hours later Travis returned to the hospital where his lungs turned out to be filled with fluid.
Travis was immediately taken to a bigger hospital, where he flatlined. Doctors took nearly four minutes to revive him. Subsequently, he was transferred again to another facility where he was placed on life support. There he was diagnosed with viral cardiomyopathy, caused by a heart virus that his family believe he picked up during a film shoot in Louisiana.
But after losing consciousness and suffering a coma that lasted several days, it was apparent Travis had suffered a stroke. His partner Mary was told that even with surgery, Travis’ chances of survival would still only stand at a slim 1 percent to 2 percent. They also admitted that even if the star pulled through, he’d probably spend the rest of his life using a wheelchair.
Ultimately, doctors said it may be kinder to switch off his life support. But Mary, who allegedly met Travis while working at her then-husband’s dental practice, refused to listen. She told The Tennessean, “At this point, the 1-2 percent chance is 100 percent chance over zero. I prayed hard, ‘God, please let me have him back, any way, shape or form.’”
Travis subsequently spent almost half a year in hospital, including nearly two months in a coma. As well as two surgeries on the brain, the star also had three tracheotomies. He suffered pneumonia on three separate occasions and often had to be intubated. Mary was once again told that Travis was likely to die after he picked up a staph infection while in hospital in Tennessee.
But Travis continued to fight. Mary told The Tennessean she knew that her partner wasn’t ready to die when he squeezed her hand after one particular emotional visit. “I went back and told the doctors, ‘It’s not our choice to decide that. … And I suggest that everybody get on board and do everything they can do to save him.’”
After changing doctors and his course of antibiotics, Travis started to show signs of improvement. In fact, just a week after the change, doctors informed Mary that her partner would soon be ready to go home. But in the end he had to wait nearly two months more before he could finally leave the Texas hospital, just in time for Thanksgiving.
Of course, Travis’ battle was far from over. The star had to attend four-hour rehab sessions every day for the next two-and-a-half years. That turned out to be a challenge that he often found extremely difficult. But these sessions ultimately helped him to shower, walk and dress himself without needing help. Travis and Mary also began to venture outside, enjoying dinners with friends, shows and trips to the grocery store.
Thankfully, Travis doesn’t recall much about his time in hospital. In 2017 Mary told Billboard that he has no recollection of the time when Merle Haggard visited him, or the 38 different IVs that were at one point hanging out of him. She said, “I think it’s actually God’s grace that keeps you from remembering things like that.”
Mary credits her faith in God and hope for helping her through these tough times and the power of music for aiding Travis’ recovery. She played her partner’s recordings constantly during his time in hospital. Meanwhile, Travis, who could recall all of his lyrics, can now sing and play the guitar using his left hand.
And Travis hasn’t ruled out returning to a performing career in the future. He told The Tennessean, “I think our goal for five years is to remain hopeful and keep our heads up high and not throw in the towel and be happy with wherever God has us.” Mary added, “If it’s back up on that stage singing, hallelujah.”
As it turns out, Travis has already performed in public several times since his various major health scares. In 2016 he gave a rendition of “Amazing Grace” during his Country Music Hall of Fame induction. In early 2017 he showcased his famous baritone vocals at an all-star tribute that saw Garth Brooks and Jamey Johnson perform his songs.
And Mary told The Tennessean she believes Travis can only improve. “There is a perfectionist in him that knows he’s not singing exactly like he used to that keeps him from enjoying it like I wish he would. I know the world, when they hear him, they can tell it’s Randy Travis, and the more he does it, the better it’s going to get.”
Travis’ gradual return to performing isn’t the only major development since he left hospital. In 2015 the star and Mary Davis walked down the aisle together. At a secret ceremony in Denton, Texas, Travis wed the woman who saved his life.