Indianapolis hospital hosts wedding at cancer patient's bedside
Monday, January 09, 2017 1:52 PM
INDIANAPOLIS — The room was festooned with twinkling lights and pale roses. The bride wore white lace; so did the flower girls. The mother of the bride wore burgundy, matching the peonies in the bridal bouquet.
The mother also wore an oxygen mask to help her breathe as she lay propped against pillows in her hospital bed.
The wedding of and Kristin Owens and Brian Powers, of Indianapolis, was supposed to come one month later. It was supposed to be different, bigger. But when Kristin's mother, Cheryl, was admitted to Indiana University Health West Hospital on Jan. 2, plans changed. The chemotherapy to treat her stage 4 kidney cancer wasn't working. The cancer was now in her lungs and still spreading. The doctor said she had just weeks to live.
But there was no way Kristin was getting married without her mom there. So she made a decision: They'd have the wedding today. Right at her mother's bedside.
At first Cheryl was unsure about having the wedding today -- and in the hospital. It wouldn't be the big wedding both mother and daughter had dreamed since Kristin was a girl.
"My mom's my best friend," Kristin, 33, told IndyStar. "She's prayed for me to get married."
Kristin assured her mom that the hospital staff and their friends would pull together something special. But even Kristin was blown away by the end result.
"It was better than the wedding I was planning for myself," she said. "They were able to show that my family is full of laughter and love in spite of everything."
Kristin and her mom had talked about her wedding day for years, but, the actual event came together in just six hours. Kristin's first call at 10 a.m. was to her pastor. He was in. Next she called her fiance Brian Powers, a guidance counselor at Tri-West, and asked him how he felt about getting married not on Feb. 4, but today, in about six hours. He was in. Alterations on her dress were completed in just a few hours. Her best friend put together a homemade bouquet. A family friend arrived to act as photographer.
This was going to be a complete wedding ceremony.
The hospital staff was busy during those six hours, too. Kristin's Franklin College sorority sister Jennifer Markowitz is a nurse there. As soon as she heard what Kristin wanted, she started pulling together departments at the hospital to help. Nurses were dispatched to Kroger for cake and punch. The dietary team whipped up lasagna and hors d'oeuvres. A rule forbidding fresh flowers in ICU was set aside for the day.
"This was a huge exception to everything," Markowitz said.
Fifty loved ones, who had mostly come to say goodbye to Cheryl, crowded into the vacant ICU patient room turned wedding chapel. Next door, in her room, Cheryl had her hair done. She was dressed carefully by her nurse. When the staff wheeled Cheryl into the wedding room, she marveled at the decorations. Despite the morphine keeping her pain at bay, Cheryl was awake and laughing. She was there as her daughter walked down the makeshift aisle as the sounds of "At Last" played on her husband-to-be's cellphone.
"You're killing me!" Cheryl called during the vows. She cried as a nurse led the room in her daughter's favorite song, "Amazing Grace."
"We did it, baby," Cheryl said later, giving Kristin a high-five. "You had a good wedding."
All doctors can do for Cheryl now is keep her comfortable. It's a process that Kristin is intimately familiar with. She works as a manager of volunteer services at Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care
"I started this job in September and I found out my mom had cancer the first week of October," Kristin said. "Sometimes it feels like a cruel joke, and sometimes it feels like a blessing," Kristin said. "You realize how fortunate you are even when life sucks."
But for now, there is time left for mother and daughter to say the things they need to say and to celebrate together.