Elizabeth Kerr and Simon O’Brien, the British couple, had been hoping to marry in June. COVID-19 struck then. Both contracted the illness and were rushed in the same ambulance to Milton Keynes University Hospital when their oxygen levels dropped dangerously low.
Kerr and O’Brien got so sick that before it was too late, medical workers rushed to arrange a wedding. When the situation of O’Brien got much worse, it was determined that he should be sent to the intensive care unit (ICU). And that did not deter them: his intubation was postponed by workers only long enough for them to tie the knot.
“They told me that we wouldn’t be able to get married after all, because they were going to have to intubate Simon and put him under,” Kerr recalled. “But they held off for another hour. And he just, just rallied in that time, just long enough for us to get married.”
A happy ending was far from clear, with mortality rates now as high as 80 percent in the ICU. But the health of O’Brien improved and the newlyweds reunited on a ward of COVID-19 where both are improving steadily, while still receiving oxygen.
“We had to wait a few days for our first kiss,” Kerr told Reuters.
Kerr, 31, and O’Brien, 36, both needed a CPAP machine to breathe when they arrived at the hospital in southern England. For COVID-19 patients, they have been placed on different wards. Kerr, a nurse at nearby Buckingham Hospital, had told doctors the pair were hoping to marry in June, but with their condition worsening, she was asked by nurse Hannah Cannon if they wanted to get married at the hospital. Kerr remembered that she had been advised that it could be her only chance.
Squeezing the arm of her husband and spreading tears as she remembered the events, she said, “Those are words I never ever want to hear again.”
O’Brien’s health deteriorated as workers in the hospital scrambled to obtain a wedding certificate, and doctors agreed to move him to the ICU, reserved for the sickest patients, where he could receive mechanical ventilation.
They waited long enough to intubate him for the service, which was held at 5.30 p.m. On January 12 (1730 GMT), three days after the couple arrived at the hospital,
Cannon was a witness and had filmed the marriage for the family and friends of the couple. The cake was made by the catering department.
“With lots of teamwork … we were able to give them a wedding, not necessarily the wedding that they would have initially intended, but certainly something positive, remarkable and memorable for them to really hold on to,” Cannon said.
O’Brien was sedated minutes after saying “I do”, and spent the night on artificial ventilation. After his partial recovery, the pair sat next to each other and clutched hands, realizing their survival was down to the fast thinking of the workers. The frightening experience of fighting for every breath, Kerr said, made it clear what was important: the people you love.
“That is everything that matters, everything” she said. “Absolutely,” O’Brien agreed, speaking through his oxygen mask.
Kerr added: “If we hadn’t had each other and we hadn’t been given that opportunity to get married, I don’t think both of us would be here now.”