Anna Gonzales and Justin Middleton exchanged vows at Indiana University Health in Indianapolis surrounded by relatives, nurses and social workers. The 30-year-old has lived with cystic fibrosis all her life and has been hospitalized since June 2. She was told she was nearing the end of her life.
With a weak voice, she whispered her “I do” to Middleton, with whom she fell in love over Thanksgiving dinner some years ago, the hospital said in a news release. The couple has been together for three years and engaged for two.
“I work in Elkhart and when they told me I needed to get here and that she was at the end of life, I came with very little,” said Middleton. “I’ve never looked at a person’s health. I’ve always looked at who they are. We all have our challenges, our downsides. I wanted to make this happens for Anna. Once the date was set, I snuck into the hospital gift shop and bought the ring.”
Hospital staffers quickly went to work prepping for the wedding: hanging paper flowers, arranging bouquets, placing battery-operated candles, coordinating refreshments and dressing Gonzales in a champagne gown with a gold tiara and matching veil.
The gown was stitched together by Ruth Miller, a hospital case manager.
“This is not about me; it’s about helping the people we love,” said Miller.
Gonzales was also given a manicure and had her hair prepped.
The couple were joined by Gonzales’ brother and nieces. Hospital chaplain Staci Striegel said while the hospital may be an unconventional location for a wedding, “it is often in the chaos of life where beauty emerges and blessings and joys catch us by a wonderful surprise.”
Gonzales was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis in her infancy and has been hospitalized multiple times throughout her life. It is marked by persistent lung infections and limits a patient’s ability to breathe. It can cause lung damage and respiratory failure, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
“It feels so special whenever someone is so ill and you can give them something so important and focus on the whole person,” said Cynthia Brown, Gonzales’ doctor. “There are times you can’t make the disease better but you can ask, ‘what is important to you right now?”