Sherra Mixon had been planning her wedding for more than a year. She and her fiancé, Termarcus, would get married under Treaty Oak in Jacksonville, Florida, then celebrate with a reception at Friday Musicale. Everything was in place. But just days before the big day, Sherra's mother, Kim Smith, was rushed to the hospital. "It wasn't totally unexpected," Sherra tells us. That's because Kim, a longtime Mayo employee, has chronic eosinophilic pneumonia, a rare respiratory disease that has landed her in the hospital many times over the past five years. But it had never happened in September, which is why Sherra and Termarcus planned their wedding for this month.
Unfortunately, the September streak wouldn't last. And as family and friends began arriving from around the country for her daughter's wedding, Kim lay in the intensive care unit at Mayo Clinic.
"My hope was that Kim would be released from the hospital in time for the wedding," says her husband, Dave. When it became clear that wouldn't be possible, Dave and Sherra began to think about Plan B. "I thought, 'If we can't take Kim to the wedding, we've got to bring the wedding to Kim,'" Dave tells us. But he was worried: Would the hospital allow a wedding in the intensive care unit? The answer was a resounding, "We do." (Okay. More like, "We will.")
In fact, Kim's care team had already been doing a little wedding planning of their own. Misty Oglesby, a nurse manager in the Emergency Department, knows Sherra — a paramedic — and learned about the family's situation on Facebook. After asking Sherra's permission, she emailed colleagues in the ICU and "asked for help with ensuring Sherra's mom could see her say 'I do.'" Cora Mendoza, nurse manager in the ICU, took the request and "ran with it," Oglesby tells us. "The staff got a cake, decorated, and made sure that every detail was taken care of." Meanwhile, Michelle Freeman, M.D., one of Kim's doctors, was working on another detail: determining whether Kim could breathe without a ventilator — and be brought out of a medically induced coma — in time to be fully present for the wedding. An attempt on Friday evening was unsuccessful. But Dr. Freeman "started working with her early Saturday morning with the hope that she could do it — and she did!"
That afternoon, music echoed down the hallway on the 4th floor of the Davis Building as Dave Smith escorted his daughter down the "aisle" and into her mother's hospital room. "When the bride came inside the room, her mother suddenly became wide awake and started to cry," Mendoza tells us. (We have a hunch she wasn't the only one.) And thanks to the efforts of Mendoza and her colleagues, "what we thought would be a cold, sad day was beautiful," says Sherra.
"The staff went way above and beyond anything that could be expected or asked of them," Dave tells us. "They showed true compassion." And in the process, gave them the best wedding gift they could have hoped for. "Words can't express the feeling of happiness I felt seeing my daughter become Mrs. Mixon," Kim tells us. "I will never go a day without thinking about it. My care team reminded me that there are good people with huge hearts who do care."
Dave says the wedding experience has "reinforced" the family's feelings about Mayo Clinic, where Kim worked for almost 20 years before taking a medical retirement because of her illness. "Kim always considered it a privilege to work at Mayo," Dave tells us, adding that the couple's two daughters "went into the medical field because of their mother's positive experience." Kim calls her Mayo colleagues her "family away from home," and credits one member of that extended family with helping her experience Sherra's official wedding ceremony and reception. Through the magic of technology, Dave beamed the festivities from his iPhone to Kim's iPad. Her "best friend" and former colleague, Lacee Quick, sat with Kim, feeding her popsicles and sips of water to keep her alert. "Without Lacee, I would have no memory of the wedding," says Kim, now recovering at home. "Mayo has very special people on their payroll," she tells us. "I will always love Mayo."
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