York couple marry on the Covid ward – thanks to ‘amazing’ NHS staff

Debbie and James Cavanagh. Photographs: York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

A seriously ill patient married his bride on the coronavirus ward at York Hospital – thanks to the help of “absolutely amazing” staff who organised the wedding at short notice.

Debbie and James Cavanagh were married on Tuesday, after James was admitted to the Covid ward when he became poorly with the virus.

The ceremony was witnessed by nurses and doctors in full personal protective equipment, who gave up their free time to be part of the wedding.

Staff on the ward made confetti from the paper inside hole punches and a florist donated flowers for the ceremony.

Bride Debbie celebrated with a cup of tea when she got home – and now faces 14 days in self-isolation whilst her new husband James remains in hospital.

The couple had been due to marry on November 14, but James has underlying health problems and when he became unwell with coronavirus they decided they could not wait.

Debbie said: “James was admitted to hospital on Saturday with breathing difficulties. He was automatically given a Covid test, which came back positive. The consultant told me he was really, really poorly.

“He was at work on Friday and he was fine, but he got ill very quickly and on Saturday morning he couldn’t breathe.

“It’s been pretty horrendous really. We didn’t expect him to contract Covid. He’s got a mountain to climb.

“We have been together for 12 years and it was his wish for us to get married.”

‘Most perfect day’

‘It meant the absolute world to us’

The couple have six children between them, nine grandchildren and one great grandchild – but no one was able to attend the wedding in hospital.

Debbie said she did not mind when doctors told her she may have to get married in scrubs, but in the end she was allowed to change into her dress in a bathroom on the ward.

She paid tribute to hospital staff, saying: “I want to thank them for the most perfect day. If it offers one person a glimmer of hope that if they are in the same position, it’s worth it.

“I don’t know if I will see James again. If the worst happens, I may not be able to be with him – and that’s the same position for everyone with someone they love in hospital at the moment.

“The registrars and all the staff were so lovely, they went above and beyond.

“It meant the absolute world to us. I wouldn’t swap it for the world.

“He was absolutely thrilled.”

A sense of peace

York Hospital. Photograph: YorkMix

She was able to sit with him for about 20 minutes. James is stable and is still on oxygen all the time but is now sitting up in bed: “He’s holding his own, every extra day we get is a miracle to me.

“It’s a very difficult time for all of us.

“It would be amazing to celebrate together with cake, but we live in such uncertain times. I will be happy to get him home, whenever that might be, that will be enough for me.

“I was overwhelmed with a sense of peace after the wedding, because it was what we both wanted.”

A spokesperson for York Hospital said: “This is a wonderful example of our compassionate and caring staff going the extra mile to support a patient.

“Only in exceptional circumstances do we facilitate a wedding in a hospital and it is a credit to all the staff involved, who went to extraordinary lengths to make this happen despite having visitor restrictions and strict PPE guidance to adhere to, while ensuring it was as special as possible for James and Debbie under the difficult circumstances.”