How Bethesda Hospital helped a patient say 'I do'

Seven months into his stay, why wait any longer to get married?

Doug and Dena getting married

It isn’t uncommon for staff at Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul to throw a birthday party or host a celebration for a patient. As a long-term care hospital, patients can be there for months. But planning a wedding for Doug and his fiancé, Dena, was a first.

First diagnosed with West Nile Virus back in his hometown of Bismarck, North Dakota, Doug’s case took a turn for the worse and he developed meningitis, encephalitis, and eventually Guillain-Barre syndrome. Because of Doug’s complex medical needs, he was transferred to Bethesda last October.

“I was on staff when Doug was first admitted and I saw him, along with Dena, every day I was on the floor. We got to be very close,” says nurse Nicky Lawrence. “When you care for a patient for an extended period of time, you naturally get to know them personally.”

Doug and Nicky had several conversations about his family, interests, and future after Bethesda. “Doug told me that after he got back home he was going to marry Dena," Nicky says. "I thought, why not get married here at Bethesda?"

Nicky shared her idea with others and then asked Doug. Without hesitation, Doug gave a wholehearted ‘yes’ and the team at Bethesda got to work.

“Planning the wedding was definitely a team effort,” says Dianne Buhrow, Clinical Manager. “Staff from all over the hospital got involved in some capacity, and they took care of all the details.”

Nurses provided the flowers, Housekeeping helped with decorations, Chaplain Peter Bauck agreed to perform the service, and Respiratory Therapy made arrangements to help Doug during the ceremony.

The wedding took place in June on Bethesda’s sixth-floor deck with the couple's dog, Opal, dressed in a tutu and nurses Nicky and Alex Skeels as witnesses.

“It was so wonderful to hear Doug say his vows,” Alex says. “He’s come a long way in his recovery, and we were so honored to be a part of their special day.”

Related Articles