Dustin Diamond’s tragic final hours
Dustin Diamond was in pain and struggling for breath in the last moments of his battle with cancer, his close friend revealed.
The Saved By The Bell star, who died on Monday from stage 4 lung cancer, had been taken from the hospital to begin hospice care at home, but tragically stopped breathing before he even got to his bed, his friend Dan Block exclusively told The Sun.
"When I got here on Monday, he couldn't speak, he was gasping for air. It was a very awful sight. I know he was in a lot of pain," said Dan, who flew in to be by Dustin's side.
"Then they released him to hospice care; I helped put him in the ambulance and drove with him home.
"They were setting up his bed and bringing him into the house and before he could get moved into his bed he stopped breathing and he had a DNR [Do Not Resuscitate].
"He decided on the DNR because he did not want to be in pain anymore, he just wanted to go."
Dan last spoke to Dustin last Thursday - before his speech deteriorated - but said he was excited about the future and thought he had weeks or months to live.
"On Thursday night I knew it was going to be sooner than we originally thought," Dan said.
"He told me he was dying, he told me he was in a lot of pain, but he was still excited about the future - he thought he would have a few more weeks or months. He thought five months.
"He was home three or four days and then he was going to go back to the hospital for treatment at the beginning of February.
"Then on Thursday he called me, told me he was in a lot of pain and was taking these pain pills and saying how he was waiting for them to kick in, then he had to get off the phone because his dad had flown in to see him.
"He was really excited his dad was there. He was like, 'Dude my dad's here, he's at the airport, I'll call you later,' but he never did, that was the last time he actually talked to me.
"I heard in the morning that they called 911 because his breathing was really shallow and when they got him to the hospital his liver enzymes were elevated, he was jaundiced and they did a scan and found fluid in his lungs. It was really bad.
"Sunday he was saying some words but that was it. I knew I had to fly down to see him."
Dan said he decided to fly in to see Dustin in the hospital in Florida after his girlfriend sent him a recording of the star's laboured breathing.
"I just thought, 'Oh my God,' when I heard it. I'm an asthmatic, so I know what it's like not to breathe, but that sounded so bad," he said.
"I'm so glad I came. He couldn't speak but he could hear me. I was talking to him and telling jokes.
"I was saying to him that I never got his autograph. I was always getting autographs for other people, but I never got one for myself.
"And I joked, 'You never gave me an autograph so you have to pull through so when you're better you can do an autograph for me.'
"He was reacting to what I said, his eyes were moving, I'm sure he could hear me.
"But it was so hard to see him like that, poor Dustin."
Dustin's girlfriend Tash and another friend were also with Dustin when he died.
Dan said Tash is still trying to process the shock death but paid tribute to how strong she was for Dustin in his final days.
"Dustin's girlfriend is struggling, it's a lot to take in, she couldn't believe how fast things happened," he said.
"She has been there at the hospital as much as she could with the visiting hours and her work schedule.
"He greatly appreciated her and mentioned that to me numerous times.
"She was super strong for him."
Dan said the tragic death had also been hard on the actor's dad, who also lost Dustin's mum to breast cancer and older brother, who died as a child.
"His dad is his only family. I took him out to see his dad last year. They used to talk a lot but they hadn't physically seen him in a while so when I had the opportunity I took him to California to see him. It was nice," Dan recalled.
"He was really happy his dad came to visit him in the hospital.
"It's been hard for his dad because he lost his older brother, who had an illness. That's how Dustin got started trying to entertain his brother when he was sick.
"His dad has taken it pretty hard but he wants to remember Dustin alive and being funny, entertaining people. He wants to remember the good times, not the bad.
"It reminded him of Dustin's mum passing of breast cancer so this was really hard on him.
Before his death, Dustin had revealed to Dan that his last wishes were to meet the bassist from his favourite band Tool, Justin Chancellor, and to visit the Star Wars exhibit at Disney World.
Sadly, Dustin never got to fulfil his dying wishes - although Dan takes comfort that he died surrounded by friends and loved ones.
"I knew he wanted to see me, he wanted to see his dad, he wanted to see his girlfriend and a few other people, he wanted to try to meet Justin Chancellor and he wanted to go and see the Star Wars exhibit.
"At least he got to see his dad, that was awesome, it was a big thing for him.
"He didn't get to meet Justin or go to Star Wars. It's sad - we thought we had more time."
Dustin was first hospitalised in January and diagnosed with stage 4 small cell carcinoma, despite claiming he had never smoked cigarettes.
The Sun revealed his cancer was terminal just hours before he passed away.
Dan, who met Dustin after hiring him to do commercials for his firm Insurance King, previously said the actor was subject to constant public ridicule both in person and online - and he believed the bullying had prevented him from getting treatment earlier.
Dan, who filmed several comedy commercials with Dustin, said he now plans to continue with a project he and Dustin had planned together - in his memory.
"Dustin and I had this idea of working with type-cast celebrities like him, that maybe have been down on their luck or are looking for regular work, so I'm definitely going to do that," he said.
He also made a poignant tribute video for Dustin, showcasing some of his best Saved By The Bell moments and some of the commercials they'd worked together on.
Earlier, The Sun revealed Dustin wanted to be cremated and laid to rest without a gravestone because he was afraid people would "mess with it just like they messed with him when he was alive".
"He wants to be cremated, he did not want to have a gravestone and he did not want to have a big funeral so it's just going to be a memorial with a few family and friends," Dan said.
"He said he didn't want to have a gravestone because he was worried people would mess with it just like they messed with him when he was alive. He just wants to be left in peace to leave the world."
Dustin's agent Roger Paul confirmed that his condition had deteriorated fast.
"Dustin did not suffer. He did not have to lie submerged in pain. For that, we are grateful," he said in a statement on Monday.
This story originally appeared on The Sun and is republished here with permission
Originally published as Dustin Diamond's tragic final hours