‘She finally said yes:’ Couple briefly remarries at Wyoming Medical Center
By Kristy Bleizeffer Feb 16, 2021
Over and over since their divorce in 1995, Victor Edwards asked Patty to marry him again. She was the love of his life, he told her and everyone else. The two had three children together and stayed close through all the years since. Victor followed Patty to Omaha, Neb., and then followed her back. Patty kept Victor’s last name.
On Jan. 14, 2021, Patty finally said yes.
Patty was at home, taking a break from hospital vigils.
Early this winter, Victor had been admitted to Wyoming Medical Center with COVID-19. His COPD put him at high risk of complications, but he recovered enough to go home. Just after Christmas, he was admitted again. He struggled to breathe even though he was no longer COVID positive. Patty had been in an out of the hospital to see him.
She turned on the TV and found a sappy movie about a couple that lost track of each other for 25 years before reconnecting.
“I didn’t realize until I was watching that movie that Victor was the love of my life, too. It took me a long time to realize that one of the reasons I never married again was because it wasn’t Victor,” Patty said.
She jumped out of her chair and got dressed. Her roommate asked where in the world she was shooting off to.
“I’m going to get married today,” Patty answered.
Hospital weddings aren’t all that uncommon.
An uncertain prognosis can make a person take stock of what’s important. But, there was a lot to get done and a lot of calls to make before Patty and Victor could marry again: Rings to buy. A marriage license to get without Victor present. A groom to ask.
Patty first called her and Victor’s daughter, Amber-Rose, who could legally officiate the ceremony. Their sons, Ryan and Roy, would be the witnesses.
Then, Patty called Victor: “Guess what I’m doing?" she said. "I’m going to the courthouse to get a marriage license.”
“Who are you going to marry?” Victor asked.
“You,” she answered, and Victor started crying.
“I think that’s a good idea.”
Because of the hospital's visitor restrictions at the time, Victor could have just one visitor per day and a limited number of people in his room.
That meant Amber-Rose couldn't officiate and the couple’s sons couldn’t act as witnesses. Victor’s previous children, Patrick and Amy, and the family’s foster son, Zachary, wouldn’t be able to be there either.
Hospital employees also aren’t traditionally allowed to act as witnesses in weddings or in other official capacities, according to our policy.
The couple would have to find another way.
Enter Amanda Messmer. As a Wyoming Medical Center patient advocate, she is a trouble shooter of sorts. She works with patients and families to navigate an often confusing healthcare system and to make their stays more comfortable. During COVID, she’s worked to connect patients with their families over Facetime and Zoom and help them to understand the necessary restrictions to keep families and staffers safe.
Amanda heard about Patty’s and Victor’s plans through Neuro Unit nurse manager Tamara Thomson, R.N., and got to work. She connected with Patty and proposed a solution: If she and Victor could wait one day, they could marry in the hospital chapel. Victor’s care team would arrange transport, Amber-Rose could officiate and there would be room enough for their witnesses and family.
The ceremony was scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Jan. 15. Patty went home with butterflies in her stomach.
Patty tried to call Victor a few times throughout the evening, but didn’t get an answer.
Then her phone rang the next morning. It was Victor’s number, but Amanda’s voice on the other end of the line.
Victor had taken a turn for the worse. He was maxed out on oxygen, and he couldn’t go to the chapel for the wedding.
“Can we still make this happen?” Patty asked.
“Yes,” Amanda replied, and started arrangements for a small bedside ceremony. She secured permission from hospital legal advisors for staff to serve as witnesses. She contacted staff Chaplain Dave Mondle to officiate. They could do it in Victor’s room at the original time, 2:30 p.m.
Patty hung up relieved, but had a bad feeling in her gut. She didn’t want to wait. She picked up some flowers at a grocery store and went to exchange the ring she had bought for Victor the day before (it was too small.) She arrived at Wyoming Medical Center at around noon.
A small group gathered in Victor’s room, and Patty settled next to him on his bed. Chaplain Dave asked Victor if he was sure he wanted to get married right then and there.
Victor replied: “I was married to her for 14 years, and I chased after her for 26. She finally said ‘yes’ again. I want to do this.”
The ceremony itself was short.
Victor’s nurse, Meagan Reisinger, served as one witness while Chaplain Sunny Bray as the second. Meagan used three different phones to Facetime with family, take photos and shoot video.
Victor and Patty exchanged vows from 1 Corinthians: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Patty played their song, “Wind Beneath My Wings.” Because Victor couldn’t remove his oxygen apparatus, instead of “you may kiss the bride,” Chaplain Dave asked him to wink at his new wife.
“It was absolutely the sweetest thing,” Amanda said. “And all of the sudden he was at 100 percent oxygen, and he hadn’t been there for days. He was so at peace.”
Patty stayed with him as long as she could, but it was clear he was tired. She wanted him to get some rest. She told him his sons and daughters would be coming to see him the following days, and then she’d be back when it was her turn. Then she left to let Victor sleep.
She hadn’t even made it to the WMC parking garage before she heard an announcement over the hospital intercom: “Rapid response to room 641.” Victor’s room.
Patty was married to Victor for the second time for less than a couple of hours.
When she got back to his room on the sixth floor, Amanda was outside waiting for her. Victor had essentially no healthy lung tissue left. A doctor sat with her to talk her through her options, and Amanda made arrangements for their children to come say goodbye.
Patty calls Amanda her angel for the help she gave to her that day. Her certificate will be framed and hung on her wall. Through sharing her story, she hopes people learn two lessons: First, COVID is a serious disease and we must treat it as such. Two, don’t put off the things that, in your heart, you know you should do.
“I can’t name anything in the world that is more important than that marriage certificate, even though it only lasted a little while,” she said. “It was a beautiful, beautiful beginning to a very, very sad day.”