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Facing Mother’s Life-limiting Illness, Couple Ties Knot at Tanner Medical Center/Carrollton

Carrollton couple Caitlin Hand and her fiancé, James Haynes, planned a November wedding. Haynes’ mother, Eva Haynes of Mt. Zion, was excited for the pending nuptials as any loving mother would be.

As the wedding date grew closer, however, Eva’s cancer left her condition more fragile.Eva Haynes attends her son's wedding from her hospital bed

Clinicians understood that it was unlikely Eva would make it to the November ceremony. Candid conversations were had with the family. Hand and Haynes moved the planned wedding up to October, but when Eva was admitted to Tanner Medical Center/Carrollton for care, it appeared cancer would preclude his mother’s attendance for that date, too.

With few options left, Haynes asked his mother’s nurse if a bedside wedding would be OK with the hospital. It was short notice, but it would be the only way his mother would get to be part of their special day. Time was not on the couple’s side.

“Great medicine isn’t just about the patient — you’re caring for their loved ones, too,” said Jennifer Smith, RN, director of nursing at Tanner Medical Center/Carrollton. “People need to see that the ones they love are cared for.”

Word of the request spread throughout the 180-bed hospital. Dietary staff from the Food and Nutrition Services department came up with a cake and some refreshments. The hospital’s Environmental Services staff seized a classroom at the facility and set it up with rows of chairs. An arch was secured from a nearby florist, and nurses adorned the room with bows and decorations.

A baby grand piano used for the hospital’s music therapy program was even rolled in, complete with a volunteer to play it. Someone brought a cake-topper for the couple to keep.

Tanner staff at the Hand-Haynes weddingAnother classroom was set aside for Hand to dress in her gown. The wedding party assembled, and Tanner’s security cordoned off parts of the hospital so Eva could be brought down from her room with privacy. Groomsmen in vests and ties hurried through the hospital’s corridors.

That warm August evening, near nightfall, nurses moved Eva in her hospital bed, bringing her down the hall, down the elevator and across the hospital’s vacant atrium. Within the classroom nearby were some 40 friends, relatives and well-wishers — as well as her son and his bride-to-be, ready to recite their vows.

It was a complete surprise to Eva — just as the hospital’s staff hoped it would be.

Music played. The couple wed. Family hugged and cried happy tears — as did several of the Tanner staff who helped bring the evening together.

“In medicine, we plan,” said Smith, the nursing director, “but we also improvise. No two patients are the same, and no two families have the same needs. Eva needed to be here for this. James needed his mother to be here for this. We can’t always give people more time, but we can give them comfort. We hope that’s what we were able to do for Eva, James and Caitlin. They’ll never forget this day — and neither will we.”