It wasn’t the wedding they had planned, but Brad and Alyssa Lawson will cherish the beautiful day that came about following a life-changing diagnosis.
Brad and Alyssa were planning a May 30, 2015 wedding, but things changed the day Brad came to Fairview Southdale Hospital’s Emergency Department, having a difficult time breathing. He was later diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The couple had just moved from California four months ago and, while Brad was approved for private health insurance, his coverage doesn’t begin until August. But he could be covered by Alyssa’s insurance immediately if they were married.
Making it special and personal
The couple were just going to sign the paperwork to get married. That’s until a nurse connected them with Fairview Southdale’s lead chaplain David Egelstad.
“Chaplain Dave was super excited,” says Brad. “He encouraged us to put a little more effort into it.”
“I’m glad we did,” says Alyssa. “It was absolutely perfect. Dave’s incredible. He was so thoughtful.”
Alyssa went to a bridal store and bought a dress in 10 minutes. “I told them what I had tried on previously; they found it for me, and it fit perfectly. I was their easiest customer ever,” she says.
She borrowed shoes and accessories from a recently married friend and styled her own hair and makeup.
Not to be outdone, Brad swapped his hospital gown for a navy blue suit.
“I wasn’t going to get married without pants on,” he says.
He finished his first round of chemotherapy early morning Thursday, July 10 and, by 8:30 a.m., was with his fiancée in Fairview Southdale’s Elsie O. Mitchell Meditation Sanctuary.
Standing in the center of the labyrinth, Brad and Alyssa exchanged vows and rings and listened to special readings.
And they weren’t alone. Brad’s mom had flown in from Los Angeles when he was admitted to our hospital so she was on hand for the ceremony.
Alyssa’s parents and brother and his family drove from Wisconsin to be there, and one of her best friends attended, too.
Each guest chose a flower from a basket and placed it in a vase—symbolizing the creation of a garden to represent the beauty of this new family.
“Alyssa and Brad did an amazing job of creating a brief but meaningful ceremony that let their warm and playful personalities shine through,” says Dave.
Sharing their joy
After the ceremony, guests enjoyed cake Alyssa picked up from a store and coffee served by Nutrition Services.
Wearing their wedding finery, Alyssa and Brad walked the halls of the hospital, stopping to visit the nurses and providers who provided Brad’s care.
They donated their wedding flowers to patients in the Heart Center, where Brad had been treated before his diagnosis.
“All of the staff was so excited for us,” says Brad. “When we returned to my room, they threw paper confetti up in the air.”
Staff also decorated Brad’s room with a balloon arrangement with hearts and white paper garlands.
During Brad’s approximately week-and-a-half stay, the couple experienced many aspects of care, from emergency care to spiritual health to cardiology and oncology.
“The staff was just incredible. Everyone was so attentive, and everything has been very efficient and very fast,” says Alyssa.
Not to mention pretty good at helping throw a memorable wedding.
Brad will return to work as he receives outpatient chemotherapy.
In the meantime, the couple still intend to have their 2015 nuptials. Though their hospital wedding may have been smaller and simpler, the Lawsons say they couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day.