Kitchener-Waterloo

Her dream was for her dad to be a part of her wedding; ICU team makes it a reality

The intensive care unit team at Grand River Hospital in Kitchener, Ont., recently supported a very special family celebration — a wedding. The hospital went the extra mile for a terminally ill father to see his daughter on her wedding day.

Staff helped Martin Connelly safely get from his room in ICU to ceremony in hospital's courtyard

The ICU team at Grand River Hospital granted Danielle Connelly her wish to have her dad Martin Connelly at her wedding. (Alice Philipp)

Martin Connelly — a terminally-ill patient at Grand River Hospital — has been nudging his daughter Danielle Connelly about getting married, ever since she told him she and fiancé Ben Maloy had talked about it. 

But with Martin in the intensive care unit at Grand River Hospital, it didn't seem like the best time to have a wedding, Danielle says.

"We've been talking about this for a long time and those plans never really worked out; and then we were sitting in a meeting with doctors telling us that they didn't know if my dad would last a couple of weeks or a couple of months more. We weren't sure what was going to happen and so we just just decided to do it last minute," she told CBC News.

Members of the hospital's ICU team worked together to ensure Danielle's dad could be at the wedding, which they held in the hospital's courtyard. Connelly and Maloy married last month.

"It took everything not to break down in tears walking with him. It was amazing. He looked so good," Danielle Connelly says.

Danielle Connelly and Ben Maloy have been talking about getting married for seven years. They tied the knot in October in the presence of Connelly's terminally ill dad Martin Connelly. (Alice Philipp)
 

Team effort

When the couple proposed the idea of the hospital hosting their wedding in three days so that Connelly could be there, the ICU team immediately agreed. They worked with the hospital's spiritual care team to plan an outdoor, physically-distanced wedding in the courtyard.

Social worker Katie Garner said the decision came after "a very difficult family meeting about end of life."

"Dani voiced that her only wish is for her father to be part of her wedding day … I found myself confidently stating that it was possible and we can make it work, without really knowing how we would do it," she said.

Garner got to work in her new impromptu role as wedding planner, bringing together other members of the ICU team to figure out how Martin Connelly could safely participate in his daughter's wedding. They called in Trudy Rose, manager of spiritual care, for her support with the family.

ICU nurse Amy Picco and respiratory therapist Lindsay Zador helped Connelly safely get from his room in ICU to the ceremony. 

'You see this sort of thing on TV shows'

Their efforts allowed Connelly to witness his daughter's wedding and spend time celebrating with wedding guests and friends after the ceremony. 

"You see this sort of thing on TV shows — but we don't really do it in real life," Zador said.

Jacklyn Scott, a music therapy student, volunteered with her husband Doug to play music before and during the ceremony. (Alice Philipp)

Florence Juma, the hospital's spiritual care provider and educator, was there to officiate the wedding. Jacklyn Scott, a music therapy student, volunteered with her husband Doug to play music before and during the ceremony.

"This was really just the whole team pulling together," Rose said.

K-W community provided wedding favours

Businesses and individuals in Kitchener and Waterloo provided wedding favours.

At the beginning of the pandemic, members of the community began knitting or crocheting hearts to help families when they could not be with their loved ones in person. 

"I took the spirit of the hearts and extended it to be the tangible expression of the love that binds Dani and Ben, all of us together," Rose said.

"We're so thankful to the whole Grand River team," Connelly said, during her wedding toast. "Thank you for making this possible."

When the couple proposed the idea of the hospital hosting their wedding in three days so that Connelly could be there, the ICU team said 'yes' and leapt into action, working with its spiritual care team to plan an outdoor, physically-distanced wedding in the GRH courtyard. (Alice Philipp)

'Not what we were expecting' but 'amazing' 

Connelly said she and Maloy thought they were going to get married in an ICU room at her dad's bedside.

"It was amazing and honestly, not what we were expecting at all," Connelly told CBC News.

"We call them our ICU family. We've been with this ICU team for months now [and] they've been the most kind, compassionate, incredible human beings. They've taken such good care of dad and of our families and given us an opportunity to face time when we weren't able to get into the hospital because of COVID.

"So, regardless of the wedding, they've been incredible. And then the wedding was just a thousand steps beyond the call of duty. We thought we were getting married in an ICU room. Everything he would need for that hour and 45 minutes he was outside, they somehow made it portable. They didn't bat an eyelash. They were happy to do it and it was just amazing," she added.

Best friend's wedding dress was a 'perfect' fit

The bride wore a white wedding dress — lent to her by a friend. 

"We had two days notice so we were just going with whatever we could get. And then the night before my wedding, around 8 p.m., my best friend shows up at my parents house and it's like, 'I don't know why I didn't think of this sooner, but you should fit my wedding dress. Please try this on.' And it fit like a glove, it was perfect," Connelly said.

The couple says staff at the hospital 'didn't bat an eyelash' at the idea of a wedding. (Submitted by Grand River Hospital)

On the morning of the wedding, Maloy's coworkers went to the hospital to decorate the courtyard. 

"We thank everyone in the hospital, to our friends and family who've just been instrumental in helping us through the whole thing," Maloy said. 

"Planning a wedding in two or three days was intense but they pulled a lot of the weight so it was wonderful.

"Our idea of a wedding was always going to be just something very informal, going to the courthouse and then putting the money into having a lot of friends and family get together. But the way it turned out, it was beautiful," Maloy added.

(Submitted by Grand River Hospital)

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