University of Northampton lecturer helps two Covid patients get married in hospital

"Two priests in full PPE, conducting a wedding blessing on an intensive care ward is not something I’ll forget seeing in a hurry!”

Tuesday, 2nd February 2021, 5:40 pm

A nursing lecturer at the University of Northampton, who religiously keeps human contact as a gold standard of good care, helped two Covid patients get married while they were in hospital.

Hannah Cannon is a senior lecturer in the University of Northampton’s (UoN) nursing associates team and also works as a rapid response nurse at Milton Keynes University Hospital.

During a regular shift, she was caring for a male patient who was acutely ill with Covid and experiencing severe breathing difficulties that left him struggling to talk.

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Hannah Cannon

He was the fiancée of a female patient also being treated for the deadly virus at the same time and same hospital, but on a different ward. Neither had been able to talk to the other since admission.

They had been due to marry in the summer, but the pandemic put a halt to their wedding plans. The outcome for both was touch-and-go, so Hannah had a light bulb moment about how to raise their spirits and continue the human contact caring ethos.

Hannah said: “2020 was going to be their year, having the fairy tale wedding before the pandemic dashed their plans and hopes and now both were hospitalised. Understandably, both were feeling very low.

“Their story seemed so sad, so I thought about what the team and I could do help cheer them. I asked the bride-to-have-been if she liked the idea of getting wed from her hospital bed. It was as organic as that – the idea just flew out of my mouth, without me thinking far ahead!

“When she said ‘I do’, I set about arranging a marriage blessing at a moment’s notice, in a busy hospital, during a pandemic and with all of the health and safety measures to bear in mind.

“A bit of a challenge made more urgent by the fact her partner was moved to intensive care while these plans were getting off the ground.”

The hospital has a chaplain who unfortunately was not able to do the wedding ceremony, but very helpfully contacted an available colleague.

Hannah also had to find a suitable, safe space in the intensive care unit where the blessing could take place, without disrupting the care of the other patients.

Hannah said: “It was a lot of work in such a short space of time, but good plans made for a good cause have a way of working out. The patients’ families found all of the documentation needed to make sure everything could go ahead.

“The whole event took 15 minutes and, even though both were very ill, you could see how glad they were almost immediately. I was so thrilled for them and, I have to admit, the sight of two priests in full PPE, conducting a wedding blessing on an intensive care ward is not something I’ll forget seeing in a hurry!”

Both patients are now, thankfully, on the mend meaning Hannah’s brief but successful stint as a hospital wedding planner is over. But doing meaningful things for patients – however big or small – and always keeping their care person-centred is something Hannah keenly imparts to UoN students.

Hannah said: “For me, like all nurses, the care we give is all about people and relating to them on an individual level, so it’s hugely important to get that across to students, right from day one.

“You have to always show your human side, embrace it and use it when you are caring for patients. Even when things haven’t been text book perfect during a shift, I help students realise they can take that experience, write it down, reflect on it and make suggestions for improvements so they are always learning and developing.

"I’m a firm believer, as we all are at the University and across the profession, that a good nurse is always learning.”

Find out more about nursing associates at UoN here.