TMZ: Christopher 'Big Black' Boykin hospitalized for days before death, according to ex-wife

(TMZ) - Christopher 'Big Black' Boykin's heart was in terrible condition for days before his death -- so bad, in fact, doctors feared he'd eventually need a heart transplant ... TMZ has learned.

Chris' ex-wife, Shannon Turley, tells us Chris was hospitalized in Plano, TX for several days while doctors monitored his heart. He'd been struggling with heart issues, and already had a defibrillator implanted in his chest.

She says doctors tried to resuscitate Chris for 30 minutes when his heart gave out on Tuesday. He died at 4 PM. Shannon says Chris was not on the transplant list yet, but doctors said he was heading in that direction.

Shannon and Chris have a 9-year-old daughter, Isis. Although they divorced in 2009, she says Chris had been living with her in Texas due to his declining health.

As we reported, Boykin's death shook his "Rob & Big" co-star and friend Rob Dyrdek, ... who wrote, "My heart is broken. I don't want to believe that this is reality. I am so thankful for you."

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