It didn’t matter that Dennis Haynes couldn’t walk his daughter down the aisle. Or that instead of a tuxedo, he wore a hospital gown.
The dying patient was able to give away his daughter at her wedding thanks to a nurse who arranged a ceremony in Beaufort Memorial Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit last month.
Their wedding planner was Ana Eastman, one of the nurses who had been caring for Haynes during his hospitalization. In a matter of hours, she turned his room into a wedding chapel complete with flowers, decorations, cake, photographer, a pastor to officiate and even a wedding singer.
“It was absolutely incredible,” said Haynes’ wife, Linda. “I can’t tell you what it meant to us.”
For her compassionate gesture, Eastman was presented Tuesday with the DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses, a national tribute reserved for RNs who go above and beyond the call of duty.
Linda Haynes first approached Eastman about having a wedding ceremony at the hospital when her husband’s health began to fail. It was clear he wasn’t going to make it to the wedding they had planned for their daughter in October.
“Holly really wanted him to be at her wedding,” Haynes said. “Ana told me she would take care of it. I thought she was going to get a minister to perform a little ceremony. I never imagined she was going to plan a whole wedding.”
Eastman ordered a cake from the hospital’s dietary department, bought decorations, contacted Beaufort Memorial’s chaplain and arranged to have Paul Nurnberg, a local photographer, take pictures.
When Dennis Haynes deteriorated more quickly than expected, the ceremony had to be moved up two days. Eastman came in on her day off and rearranged everything. She cleared out the room and put white sheets on the tables, strung silver wedding bells from the ceiling and scattered paper rose pedals on the floor.
Although she had bought wedding plates and napkins, the cake ordered from the dietary department
wasn’t ready. Unfazed, she arranged for another ward nurse to run out and buy one at a nearby bakery.
At the appointed time, the bride walked into the room to the wedding march playing on an iPad. She stood at the foot of the bed with her fiancé, Brian. Her mother was at her father’s bedside holding his hand. A dozen ICU nurses and staff watched from the doorway.
“It was the most beautiful, touching ceremony I’ve ever seen,” recounted Christy Bayne, a hospice nurse recruited to sing at the ceremony. “Everyone was crying.”
After the bride and groom exchanged vows, Bayne sang Jason Mraz’s “I Won’t Give Up.” She performed it a cappella, reading the lyrics from her cell phone.
Dennis Haynes applauded from his hospital bed.
“He was completely aware of everything that was going on,” Linda Haynes said. “At the end of the ceremony, he took off his oxygen mask and shook Brian’s hand. He smiled and told him, ‘Congratulations! She’s your problem now!’”
Haynes passed away four days later.
Eastman received numerous nominations for the DAISY Award, created in 1999 by a Seattle couple as a way to honor the nurses who took care of their son before he died.
On Tuesday, hospital administrators and staff surprised the ICU nurse with the award — a hand-carved sculpture called “A Healer’s Touch” — and an engraved vase full of daisies. She received it on her last day of work, as her husband, a Marine, is being transferred to Virginia Beach.
“I told her that we will fill her spot, but we’ll never be able to replace her,” said Diane Razo, director of Beaufort Memorial’s Critical Care Unit. “That’s the kind of person she is.”