April 16, 2012

Couple says ‘I do at UW Medical Center

UW Health Sciences/UW Medicine

A spring wedding took place on the University of Washington campus last month.  The venue was the lobby of the UW Medical Center transplant surgery unit.

The groom, Jamie Paul, is hospitalized on the unit.  He had met his bride, Sallie Nicholls, more than 20 years ago on a blind date. His hospital room is festooned with photos of them smiling on a drive in a red convertible roadster.

During visits from their palliative care team, the couple talked about what was most important in their lives and was yet unfinished.

“Faced with an uncertain future after more than two decades together, they chose to affirm their love and commitment to each other by getting married,” said Rev. Amy Furth, a chaplain on UW Medical Centers Spiritual Care staff. “They had a marriage license, but they needed a wedding to make it official.”

Their wish soon drew together an extended community of family, friends, nurses, social workers, physicians, other hospital staff, and volunteers.  They worked together on the couples behalf  to make it happen.

The UW Medical Center 4SE hospital unit nursing manager Carol Allen oversaw the nuptial  arrangements, and palliative care social worker Carol M. Kummet handled the particulars behind the scene.  Jamies and Sallies family and friends decorated the lobby with fresh flowers, ribbons, and tablecloths, Allen said. Nurses from the transplant unit, the intensive care unit, and other hospital staff members brought refreshments, including a homemade wedding cake and samosas.

Preparing the celebration  on their free time was a prime example, according to Furth, of not only meeting patients medical concerns and physical needs, but also staying in touch with patients hopes for a fulfilling life.

On the morning of the wedding, nurses assisted the groom as he dressed up in a grey suit for the occasion. Patients and families on the unit came by to express their congratulations and their pleasure at the anticipated event, Furth said.

The couple had asked Furth to perform a traditional Christian wedding service from the Book of Common Prayer.  When the time came, the lobby filled with family, friends, nurses, physicians, social workers, patient care technicians, service specialists, and volunteer patient and family advisors.  One surgeon later confessed to becoming misty eyed when his patient and the bride exchange their vows.  Furth will especially remember Jamie and Sallie “promising in clear voices to love, comfort and honor each other in sickness and in health” before she pronounced them husband and wife.

“It was incredible and turned out lovely,” Allen said. “The couple was surprised to see so many people there.”

A few days afterward, newlywed Jamie Paul, a handsome polished ring on his left hand, gave one of the many reasons why he loves his new wife:  “She is a remarkable person and has been with me through good times and bad.”  He said he felt particularly encouraged by her strength in helping him through his present circumstances.

“Sallie is stellar,” he said.