KANKAKE — A hospital room may not have been where Mindy Garrelts Heavilin had dreamed of getting married since she was a little girl, but an impromptu wedding in Riverside – where her terminally ill mother could be by her side – s turned out to be better than the bride or her family could have imagined.
On March 4, Mindy Garrelts, 26, and Dustin Heavilin, 25, both of Sibley, got married in the intensive care unit at Riverside Hospital, where Mindy’s mother was being treated for kidney failure after a seven-year battle with cancer, at a ceremony. orchestrated by the Riverside nurses.
The bride’s grandfather officiated the wedding and her father walked her down the aisle. The mother of the groom was also present and helped the bride put on her wedding dress. About 10 immediate family members participated in total.
Angela Garrelts, 48, of Milford, who worked as a home and hospice nurse, was diagnosed with kidney cell cancer in 2015. She was being treated at Cancer Treatment Centers America before her death. to be moved to Riverside to be closer to home.
Angela was returned to hospice days after seeing her daughter’s wedding and died at home the following week, March 10.
Mindy, who is also a registered nurse, recalled the night her mother arrived in Riverside.
She noted that the nurses had done such a good job of putting her mother at ease, that the family finally felt okay to go home to rest.
“We arrived at 11 at night, almost midnight, and pretty much since we walked through the doors, it was probably the best care I’ve seen, and I work in healthcare myself “, she said. “I haven’t seen this much quality care for a patient in a long time.”
With Angela’s dedication to caring for others, it was fitting that she could receive such care at the end of her life.
“She did her job 24/7. She was even working when she was in the hospital, if that tells you anything,” Mindy said. “It didn’t matter how sick she was, if we were on vacation; if anyone needed help, she took time out of her day to help and make life easier.
When nothing more could be done to improve Angela’s condition, the Riverside nurses contacted Mindy and her father to arrange a small wedding ceremony at the hospital.
“That’s what made my mom want to hold on longer because she wanted to come to my wedding,” Mindy said.
Wherever the family turned, someone volunteered to help make the day special.
“[The nurses] went to the Hobby Lobby and got every decoration imaginable,” Mindy said. “They told me I didn’t have to worry about anything, just bring me, my dress, and if I had like my bouquet or whatever, and put on makeup and that’s pretty much it. almost everything. I said okay.
In the rush of the unexpected ceremony, Dustin forgot to bring a suit jacket, so one of the hospital administrators lent the groom his jacket.
A hospital patient who heard about the wedding presented a cake for the occasion from a family member who is a baker.
One of the nurses who was a beautician offered to do Mindy and Angela’s hair. A security guard brought flowers to Mindy.
The head nurse helped Mindy choose a song to walk down the aisle with her dad.
“It was a lot of emotions, but it was big emotions,” Mindy said. “I mean yeah, it was sad what would end up happening, but it was happy emotions to the point where, they’re doing all of this for us and they didn’t have to.”
The hospital also hired a photographer and videographer to capture the moment and provided cookies and sparkling grape juice.
The family bought lunch for the hospital staff and anyone who wanted to celebrate; some nurses even came back on a day off just for the ceremony.
“There literally wasn’t a dry eye in that place,” Mindy said. “The whole room was packed, the hallway was full of nurses, doctors, auxiliary nurses, cleaners, everyone was queuing. The CEO was there; everyone came out to show how much my mother meant to them.
As for Angela’s reaction, Mindy said she wasn’t sure if she’d ever seen her mom smile so much, especially when they first saw each other wearing their dresses.
After all, it was Angela who encouraged Mindy to pop the question to her fiancé in the first place “because she absolutely loved Dustin.”
“She was so happy that she got to go through the whole shebang with me, getting ready, making sure my hair looked good, making sure my makeup looked right,” Mindy said.
Of course, the tears also started to flow.
“I think a lot of things were also speechless, because we really didn’t know how to react,” she said.
Mindy and Dustin had a formal ceremony on April 30 that the rest of their family and friends could attend, and although Angela couldn’t be physically present, the couple made sure she always played a role of foreground.
Mindy’s brother Justin stepped in for the mother-daughter dance with Angela’s dress draped over his shoulder. They also reserved a seat for Angela with her photo, her favorite drink and a personal letter from Riverside CEO Phil Kambic for guests to read.
Chad Garrelts, 49, of Milford, Angela’s husband and Mindy’s father, said Riverside’s wedding was a ‘hospital-wide effort’ and he can’t do or say enough to express how much the care she received meant to the family.
“It meant the world to all of us,” he said.
Chad said the staff did everything they could to give Angela a fighting chance, make her feel comfortable and prepare her every step of the way, just like she did for others as a nurse.
In the end, they made the process easier and helped Angela be able to come home to see her granddaughter one last time, he said.
“It’s amazing how even a smaller community has come together for us,” Chad said. “It was unreal.”
Nancy Moore, a patient liaison who helped coordinate the event, estimated the hospital had held four weddings in the 20 years she worked there, with the last one taking place around seven years ago. when an older patient was the groom.
“It’s a rare occasion, and this was probably the most special,” she said.
Moore said the wedding was a “hospital project”, with everyone from nurses to hospital administration involved, and everyone thought it was “just the right thing to do”.
“It makes me cry to think about it,” she said. “It was so sweet and loving.”
Moore added that the hospital’s goal is to care for the whole family, not just the patient.
“We had some tough days here, and that made it a little bit better,” she said. “Things are going to get better, and it was a way of giving back to a family that so deserved it.”
Jessica Norman, a nurse who helped coordinate the event, said Angela told intensive care nurses that her goal was to go to her daughter’s wedding.
“Every time we talked about what our plan was going to be, she said, ‘I just want to see my daughter get married,'” Norman said.
Unfortunately, the nurses weren’t sure if Angela would make it to the event or even if she could go home, so they contacted the family about a ceremony at Riverside.
When the family agreed, the nurses pooled their money, bought decorations and, within 24 hours, they transformed a hospital room into a makeshift wedding chapel.
“You couldn’t tell it was an intensive care room,” Norman said.
Angela rose from her chair for the first time in weeks to dress for the event.
“I’m a mother of three, and if it was me in the reverse position of Angie, I hope someone would do it for me and my kids one day, and I could only imagine being there. Mindy’s place without being able to tell if your mom was going to be at your wedding,” Norman said. “I have a very good relationship with my mother. I don’t know how I would spend my wedding day without my mother being by my side.
Norman also recounted Angela’s positive disposition and that she would always have a big smile on her face whenever someone walked into the room. She said the nurses were happy to help her close.
“Even when we took her home to the hospice a day or two later, she looked at me and gave me a big hug and said, ‘Thank you. I’m so happy to have seen Mindy get married.