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Celebrating love in the ICU

When Angela Clements learned her mother Susan had little time left and would spend her final days in the hospital, she vowed she would not have a wedding unless both her parents could be there.

Just days before, as her mother was being rushed to the hospital, her boyfriend Dillan had decided to propose. “The ambulance was literally on the way to come get her and he ran into the other room to get the ring and proposed to me in front of her.”

The couple planned to have a backyard wedding when Susan was able to return home. But when the family learned of Susan’s prognosis, Angela, despite her love for Dillan and her desire to spend the rest of her life with him, decided to give up hopes of a wedding. “Dillan and I would have grown old and grey together, but I never would have gotten married. I just wouldn’t get married without my parents there.”

That’s when Susan’s care team in the ICU at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital decided to step in. Her providers, nurses, respiratory therapists, social worker and chaplain had all grown incredibly fond of Susan and her family and wanted to do something special for them. In a matter of days, the team pulled together to plan a wedding ceremony, even inviting extended family to watch on Zoom.

Every detail was considered. One staff member who was recently married brought in decorations, the chaplain offered a blessing of the rings, procured flowers and invited a guitarist to provide the soundtrack, the cafeteria donated cupcakes, a photographer and videographer volunteered to capture it all and Susan’s nurse for the day, Paulina Vitello, BSN, RN, helped the whole family prepare for the ceremony.

Meaghan McCarthy, MSN, RN, CCRN, was charge nurse on the big day. “It’s a bittersweet moment for the family. But for those of us on her care team, it’s been a really rough two years, so to have something to look forward to and to be able to decorate and have a positive celebration, it just means so much to us,” she says. “Susan is one of the most amazing patients I have ever had. To be able to do this for her is truly special.”

Social Work Manager Maxine Klenicki, MSW, LICSW, whose role it is to support patients and their families, also served as the wedding coordinator, working closely with the staff and the family to arrange the details and ensure it all went off without a hitch. “After all this team has been through during the COVID-19 pandemic, we needed a moment to celebrate life and love, and this was just the perfect opportunity. The entire experience brought a moment of joy, not just to the patient and her family, but to us as caregivers as well.”

Most importantly, for Susan it was a chance to see her ultimate wish for her daughter come true. “There is no way we would have been able to pull this off. The girls have done so much and I am tickled pink. I never thought I would have this opportunity. I can’t thank everyone enough,” she says.

Dillan and Angela's Wedding Montage

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