I've interviewed dozens of families for a story on the 10 Best Children's Hospitals that Parents publishes every couple of years, and I'm always touched by examples of how the staff has gone the extra mile to help patients. I remember hearing about a nurse running out to a grocery store on her break to pick up a child's favorite snack and a child-life specialist who stayed after her shift to help entertain a patient who was having a particularly rough day. But the note I got from Riley Hospital for Children, one of Parents top picks in both neonatal and pulmonary care, blew me away: The staff threw a wedding for the sister of one of the critically-ill patients.
Teenager Gabby Jones had been in and out of the hospital since September battling blood cancer—and, now on top of that, she had a fungal infection that her immune-comprised body was too weak to fight. Gabby's sister, Danielle, wanted her to be maid of honor at her wedding—and she told Gabby's doctor about her wish. So doctors, nurses, and the rest of the medical team offered to host the wedding right there in the hospital.
Nurses came in on their day off to help work out all the details, like putting down a white table runner from Gabby's room into the hall and pinning her dress over her hospital gown. They brought in veils and curling irons, hung garland, and cleared out the playroom for a cupcake reception.
And for the first time in a long time, Gabby showed emotion. She began to cry, and gave Danielle a thumbs-up, the special signal they used to say: "Everything is OK." "Even when she found out she was going to die, she never cried. But when Gabby saw me and my dad, she started to cry. Then of course everyone started crying," says Danielle. "She said they were happy tears. She said, 'I'm really glad you did this for me'."
I'm glad that they did it for her too.