“It’s not the way we planned, but it came out perfect,” said newlywed Laura Villasenor after her recent wedding to Ramses Rios in a sunny, balloon-decorated courtyard of the Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara Medical Center.
Rios has been in the hospital for more than six months after a case of COVID-19 seriously damaged his lungs.
During that time, Rios has been kept alive with a live-saving machine known as an ECMO device, which stands for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara is one of only a few Northern California hospitals that have the specialized cardiac machine.
Hugh Harris, MD, a Kaiser Permanente critical care physician joined a group of seven nurses and medical technicians who wheeled Rios and his life-saving ECMO device out of the Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara Intensive Care Unit and into the hospital courtyard – a distance of about 100 feet.
As the group rolled down the corridor, one tech loudly hummed the “Wedding March” song. Outside, they plugged the device and monitors into outlets in the courtyard. Rios was smiling.
“Rios’ and Laura’s family asked to get married while he was hospitalized,” said Hong Tran, a Kaiser Permanente social worker who is part of Rios’ care team. “As long as he remained stable, we were able to arrange it. It also got him some fresh air and sunshine, which is definitely therapeutic.”
The hospital courtyard wedding was kept small with only 10 family members in the outdoor courtyard. Before the wedding day, Rios’ care team practiced rolling the hospital bed, monitors and ECMO device out to the courtyard.
Intensive Care Unit staff took up a collection and provided the balloons and small gifts for the wedding guests. They also decorated the courtyard pathway with luminaries, and wrote well- wishes of love and recovery on them.
Rios’ brother presided over the emotional ceremony, which led to applause when Villasenor kissed her groom.
“I’m very excited, thank you to everybody who made this possible,” Villasenor said after the ceremony.