To have and to hold

ICU staff serves as bridesmaids, ringbearers
May 25, 2016

Rachel Burgess wore a rather unorthodox veil for her wedding – a modified yellow surgical gown tied to the back of her auburn hair.

The veil was a gift – a cherished one – from nurses in the Intensive Care Unit at Memorial Hospital who organized an impromptu wedding for Rachel, 35, and her husband, David, 34, who spent 78 days at Memorial Hospital before being transferred to University of Colorado Hospital.

Rachel and David met when they were 10. A physical education teacher at Emmett Middle School in Emmett, Idaho, put them on the same badminton team and they’ve been best friends ever since. A few years ago, they began to date. They planned to get married.

Rachel Burgess holds the hand of her husband, David Burgess. The two were married May 9 in the Intensive Care Unit at Memorial Hospital Central.

In late February 2016, though, David became seriously ill. He was in and out of the Intensive Care Unit at Memorial Hospital. Three times, doctors placed David in a medically-induced coma.

After David emerged from the third coma, Rachel decided she did not want to wait another day to marry David, and she asked the nurses and caretakers in the ICU to help her with the details. After she got a marriage license, they married May 9 on the fourth floor of Memorial Hospital Central. The Rev. Jennifer Winterfeld, a hospital chaplain, officiated.

“They were planning a wedding; they had rings ordered, but he just kept having one complication after another,’’ Winterfeld said. “So, it was pretty touch and go. … And she was like, ‘We’re just going to get married. We’re not going to leave this to chance.’’

ICU nurses scrambled to put the wedding together. A nurse whose husband is a notary summoned him to the unit to notarize a wedding certificate. Sodexo, Memorial’s food services provider, sent a cheesecake. Catherine Landgraf, a physician’s assistant, brought rings for the couple to exchange.

Tana Steiner-Smith, a medical social worker, served as the wedding photographer and nurses Annie Collar-Marple and Katie Holm served as ring bearers and bridesmaids. They helped Rachel tie the veil to her flowing auburn hair.

Sodexo, the food and nutrition provider for Memorial Hospital, sent a cheesecake to celebrate the marriage of David and Rachel Burgess.

“I can’t say nice enough things about the ICU staff and everything that they have done for us,’’ Rachel said. “It’s not just that they saved David’s life three or four times … some of the nurses have become our family. They have really taken care of us.’’

David, who was married from his bed, came to the hospital with the flu, and he was then diagnosed with another illness that has caused him seizures.

“He is just one of these patients that really got into me and Katie’s hearts.  It’s been an emotional ride with him and it has affected all of us,’’ said Annie CollarMarple, who served as the ring bearer and bridesmaid along with Katie Holm, also an ICU nurse. “He’s been near death three times, and he’s always come out.

“You can tell what a good guy he is and what a great person Rachel is, and to be a part of them and a part of their wedding is a lasting gift that we can give to them,’’ said Collar-Marple.

Steiner-Smith, the social worker, said the couple has no family locally and a loose-knit group of friends, so the staff felt compelled to do all they could for the couple.

“Rachel requested assistance with the wedding, and we all felt a connection to her,’’ Steiner-Smith said.
Memorial nurse Annie CollarMarple (left) and Katie Holm, served as bridesmaids for Rachel and David Burgess, who were married May 9 at Memorial Hospital Central.

Winterfeld, who has presided over many ceremonies in the hospital, said she was honored to be a part of the couple’s wedding. She said the wedding is an example of how employees live the mission of UCHealth – to improve lives – and the mission of the chaplaincy at Memorial, which is to: “Honor the sacred in every moment.’’

“To me, this is exactly what hospital chaplaincy is – honoring the sacred in every moment,’’ Winterfeld said.

After hugs and congratulations from the staff, the nurses helped Rachel remove the  unorthodox wedding veil from her flowing hair.

“I’m keeping this,’’ she said while folding the veil.

About the author

Erin Emery is editor of UCHealth Today, a hub for medical news, inspiring patient stories and tips for healthy living. Erin spent years as a reporter for The Denver Post, Colorado Springs Gazette and Colorado Springs Sun. She was part of a team of Denver Post reporters who won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news reporting.

Erin joined UCHealth in 2008, and she is awed by the strength of patients and their stories.