"Far beyond patient care" Hospital staff, physicians, help patients and their families tie the knot

Charles Vaughn, clinical engineering technician, gave a toast at the June wedding of his uncle, Abraham Vaughn, and Jayne Derwin at Smilow Cancer Hospital.
Charles Vaughn, clinical engineering technician, gave a toast at the June wedding of his uncle, Abraham Vaughn, and Jayne Derwin at Smilow Cancer Hospital.

Yale-New Haven Hospital staff can add "wedding planners" to their list of skills, after going way above and beyond to bring joy and comfort to patients and their loved ones.

Weddings have been held at YNHH in the past, but 2014 has been particularly busy, with three ceremonies so far. Employees from departments throughout the hospital contributed generously of their time and talents to make each event special.

In January, a couple who had planned to marry this coming September got terrible news: the bride's mother had terminal cancer. The bride wanted her mother at their wedding, so, with help from hospital staff, the family put a ceremony together in 24 hours. The wedding was held Jan. 29 on the Medical Intensive Care Unit (NP 9), with chaplain Lonnell Lawson, Spiritual Care, presiding. The hospital donated food and a cake, and MICU staff gave the bride a bracelet to wear to the wedding. Social Worker Sarah Ingraham brought her grandmother's handkerchief to signify "something old."


Among the many hospital staff who helped give a patient her dream wedding were (l-r): Maureen Vitkovsky, patient care associate Pediatric Resource Pool; Melissa Piacenza, RN, Children's Transplantation Unit; Jessica Allegra, RN, PICU; Alistair Holmes, RN, PICU Transport; Lynette Santiago, PCA, PICU; Ryan Fredericks, MD, pediatric resident; and Lauren Edwards, RN, performance improvement coordinator, Quality and Safety, YNHCH.

On June 18, staff on the Medical/Oncology Unit at Smilow Cancer Hospital joined guests at the wedding of patient Abraham Vaughn and his bride, Jayne Derwin. When the West Haven couple decided to get married, Abraham's nephew, Charles Vaughn, a clinical engineering technician at the hospital, asked Patient Service Manager Maureen Raucci, RN, if they could hold the wedding at Smilow.

"She told me, ‘It will take some coordination, but we'll make it happen,'" Charles said. "Forty-eight hours later, there was a ceremony in the Healing Garden with a piano player, flowers and a minister from Spiritual Care. A conference room on the unit had been converted into a reception hall with hot and cold hors d'oeuvres, sparkling cider for toasts and a wedding cake. The staff thought of everything."

Charles said he was particularly touched when three nurses took time from their busy shifts to wheel his uncle into the Healing Garden.

"Maureen and her staff went far beyond patient care," he said. "The wedding was wonderful, but it was the love of the staff and all the work they did to make this happen that really touched me."

In July, the staff of the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Center, Children's Oncology and Pediatric Intensive Care units and other hospital departments helped make another patient's dream come true.

The 20-year-old had a large wedding planned and the date set, but her worsening condition made it impossible for her to leave the hospital. Stacey Rose, RN, PICU, and other staff members suggested holding the wedding at the Park Street Auditorium.

Rose brought the groom and the bride's father to see the space and they loved it, she said. In fact, they were so excited, they brought the bride over at midnight one night to check it out.

Within two days, the family put together the perfect wedding and reception for 100 guests with lots of help from staff from Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital, Care Coordination, Social Work, Patient Relations, Child Life, Parking, Environmental Services, Food and Nutrition and other departments.

"The bride and her family were so thankful, but for the staff, it wasn't about being recognized," Rose said. "It was all about giving the patient her last wish."