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Hospital wedding allows dad to walk daughter down the aisle

Like many young women, Kristen Nichols had spent countless hours planning her wedding since getting engaged two years ago.

But as the Saturday, March 25, wedding date neared, the unexpected hospitalization of her father, Dan Ochs, could have put a wrench in those plans.

But thanks to the associates of the 4SE nursing unit and others at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis, Dan was able to share the special day with his only daughter.

Once the family knew that Dan wouldn’t be able to attend the wedding, the owner of the wedding venue where Kristen planned to marry her fiancé, Johnathan, suggested asking if there was a possibility of having a small ceremony at the hospital.

“Thursday afternoon I was in Dan’s room and the family mentioned that their daughter was getting married on Saturday,” says Titus DeGraaf, RN, the nursing manager for 4SE. “They said they had asked the night shift chaplain if there was a room they could use to celebrate a mini wedding so that Dan could walk his only daughter down the aisle.”

Wanting to help the family, DeGraaf checked with the chaplains, and a plan started to take shape.

“Titus said he would be happy to see what they could do,” says Kristen’s mother, Patty Ochs. “An hour later, he was walking us around the hospital looking at different conference rooms we might be able to use."

Plans fall in place

Diane Nance, RN, a staff nurse on 4SE, then took over the planning of the wedding along with Aurora Taylor, the unit’s health unit clerk.

Nance made mints for the wedding and provided flowers and candles for the wedding. Taylor made punch and her daughter made the couple a cake. Via Christi Gift Shop provided some pink bushes to dress up the altar area. Nance also arranged for her cousin Blake; his wife, Via Christi ER physician assistant Lindsay McLemore; and their friend Kenny White to perform music during the ceremony.

Both Nance and Taylor came in on their day off on Friday and decorated the room.

“I, too, have an only daughter,” Nance says. “So I know how important this day was to Dan and his family.”

The big day

On Saturday, the day of the wedding, DeGraaf and Taylor came in on their day off to assist with the wedding. House Supervisor Joye Mock also attended in case the family needed anything.

“I came in to be with the patient in case he needed medical care during the ceremony,” DeGraaf says. “The patient’s physician (R. Lamont Bloom, MD) worked with us to enable the patient to be taken off of his IV medication long enough to walk his daughter down the aisle. I can’t recall ever having a patient wearing a tuxedo as I pushed them in a wheelchair.”

The couple arrived at the hospital at 11 a.m. with their wedding party, family members and their professional photographer. Nearly 40 people attended the special ceremony, which took place at noon.

Following the ceremony, the couple was surprised with a father-daughter dance and enjoyed the refreshments provided by Dan’s caregivers.

“There are no words to express how much they did for our family,” says Dan’s wife, Patty. “That day could have been so sad because he wouldn’t have been able to attend the wedding. This allowed him to be there. Thanking them just didn’t seem to be enough.”

Kristen agrees.

“It meant the world to us that they would step up and do that because, if they hadn’t, my dad wouldn’t have been able to walk me down the aisle,” Kristen says. “It was so nice of the staff of 4SE, the Gift Shop and others to pitch in and make that possible for us.”

'A calling'

Following the ceremony at St. Francis, the wedding party headed to the wedding venue to get ready for the 4 p.m. ceremony and reception that had been previously scheduled. Dan was able to watch the ceremony from his hospital room via livestreaming and even used Skype to interact with guests.

It was important to the family that their daughter and son-in-law have as special a day as possible, something the associates of 4SE helped them to achieve.

“People have jobs, but these people on 4SE have a calling,” Dan says. “They created a lot of memories for us. And you can’t take those away.”

Photos courtesy Pollock Photography.