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A couple gets married in a hospital room with minister presiding
February 12, 2020

Celebrating life’s big moments at the bedside

Your wedding day is supposed to be one of the happiest days of your life. You expect everything to follow carefully laid plans. From flowers to table settings to photos to decorations, everything is perfectly envisioned.

For the Schiedel family, wedding plans needed to quickly change course when husband and father Dan was diagnosed with glioblastoma last summer. After returning home from a trip to China, Dan, a successful entrepreneur, began to experience symptoms of the severe form of brain cancer, which can include headaches, nausea, confusion and fatigue. He was admitted to the hospital in early July 2019, then transferred to Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre (JHCC) for treatment and rehabilitation.

Dan’s devotion to family made him want to be part of his son’s wedding day, no matter his health condition.

“Dan was known for his fun-loving nature and his wit,” says Adele, his devoted wife of 35 years. “He lived life with integrity and passion… passion for sports, the Toronto Raptors, golf, his business and most importantly, his family, especially his two sons.”

A wedding ceremony full of positive vibes

Dan’s devotion to family made him want to be part of his son’s wedding day, no matter his health condition. Adele and her two sons, Trevor and Bryan, along with staff from the JHCC intensive care unit delivered for him. When the family realized it wasn’t possible for Dan to attend their original wedding day, they altered their plans to make sure he would be around to witness the occasion. Bryan married his fiancée Olivia in his father’s hospital room in an official ceremony complete with a wedding photographer, dresses and decorations.

A family gathers around their husband and father's bedside for a wedding ceremony.

TEA Photography

“When the ICU staff asked me if I thought it was appropriate, I was so touched as it didn’t even occur to me this could even be a possibility,” says Adele. “Dan was so excited about this marriage and the celebration so it was fitting he was present even in his non-communicative state for this most special event.

“The positive vibes impacted all of us. We believe Dan could feel the outpouring of love and affection surrounding him. This provided him with peace and contentment.”

“We know many families who come in here experience a different kind of trauma—the thought of celebrating a big life event without a loved one.”

The Schiedels were impressed with the level of dedication staff had to make this day extra special. Dan’s care team took pride in getting him ready and decorating his room to make it romantic and festive, Adele says.

“They treated him with so much respect,” she adds.

Getting to know patients and families on a personal level

It can be a challenge for some care teams to interact with families on a more personal level. Through some relationship building with Adele, Rachel Schofield, one of the nurses on Dan’s care team, made a strong connection with the family. She found out about the wedding and quickly got to work.

“When you are living in the hospital, these special touches are so meaningful.”

“We know many families who come in here experience a different kind of trauma—the thought of celebrating a big life event without a loved one,” says Rachel. “We offered to have the wedding here and get Dan dressed for the occasion. I think it was a bit of healing for the family and a good example of partnering in patient care.”

Enhancing the patient experience as wedding planners

Not satisfied with just organizing a wedding, Rachel and her colleagues surprised Adele with a 35th anniversary celebration for her and Dan a week before Bryan and Olivia’s wedding. They brought flowers, decorations and treats for the family. They also threw a second wedding ceremony for Bryan’s brother, Trevor, and his fiancée Nicole.

Photo from Adele Schiedel

A family holds their husband and father's hand in a hospital bed.

TEA Photography

“When you are living in the hospital, these special touches are so meaningful,” says Adele.

Dan died in August of 2019, just six weeks after he was admitted to the hospital. ICU staff were honoured they could offer the Schiedels some form of support during a difficult time. They’re now looking forward to helping other families celebrate those big moments in life.

Rachel has personally delivered six weddings for her patients at HHS.

“It’s nice that we can bring families some much needed joy during these challenging moments.”

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