There are times we must comb dark corners for beauty in order to survive a tragedy. The family of Michel Lima-Pascoal knows this well.
Yesterday inside Room 11 on the 7 West floor of Lahey Hospital & Medical Center, Michel married his fiancée, Andrea Teixeira. Their service was like many others: a bride with a white gown, a cake and lots of flowers. Yet a wedding inside a hospital room carries an inherent degree of sadness next to joy.
After three years of dating, Michel, 37, and Andrea, 40, planned to marry on Sept. 29. But life circumvented these plans. On August 26, Michel suffered a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed after diving into a swimming pool.
“I mentioned they should get married here, and that started the ball rolling,” said Laurie Borash, a nurse on the 7 West Unit, who is newly married herself.
Family Support is Necessary
Michel, Andrea and their family have lived in or around Malden for more than a decade, though their roots are in Brazil. Until a month ago, when the accident happened, Michel worked as a house painter. The injury has left every part of his world in flux, with the exception of his family life.
“He’s had visitors every single day, they bring him food,” Laurie said. “His family support has been amazing and you need that in these situations.”
Despite speaking mainly Portuguese, Michel’s warm personality has endeared him to the nurses and other caretakers on his inpatient floor.
“He is so grateful,” said Alex Hickey, another 7 West nurse. “He gets his humor across.”
After his time at Lahey, he will move to a rehabilitation center to continue his recovery and preparing to return home. Michel’s cousin through marriage, Elizabeth Aybar, will become his primary care-taker after he leaves the rehab facility.
“I’ve been here every day since this happened,” said Elizabeth, who has a background as a nurse’s assistant and has rearranged her work situation to accommodate Michel’s anticipated needs.
“He’s like a brother to my husband,” she said, looking at Michel in his hospital bed. “They are very, very close.”
What the Future Holds
The road ahead of Michel is long; both he and his family know this. There are some signs of hope. Michel has made progress from his initial days in the ICU. He can now feel some sensations in his legs.
Still, spinal cord injuries don’t often have positive outcomes and this family looked to make their own by going forward with the wedding.
Nurses, including Laurie, Alex and Carol, riffled through the floor’s closets looking for any decorations they might use to spruce up the room. They found streamers and a gold tablecloth. A nursing assistant, Kayla Rodriguez, brought in sparkling apple cider and long-stem glasses. Another of Michel’s nurses, Carol Sansom, made a wooden plaque with the couple’s names and the date of the ceremony — on the back are Lahey’s longitude and latitude.
“The staff really worked together to make certain that this wedding was magical for the couple,” said Judi Catalano, the Nurse Manager on 7 West.
Then, at 3:30 on Monday afternoon, Andrea walked into Room 11 through an adjacent nurse’s station. She wore a white gown and crystal drop earrings, and carried a bouquet of white and red roses. Michel sat with his bed upright and against a wall adorned with streamers and gold tissue paper.
About 10 family members stood nearby as a Justice of the Peace began the ceremony. Michel’s sister in Brazil watched through FaceTime.
After Andrea and Michel exchanged vows, nurses filtered in and out, coming to congratulate the couple. Michel’s favorite nursing assistant, Kelly Scott, joined the newlyweds for a picture and tears fell from everyone’s eyes. Then, in tradition, Andrea threw her bouquet to some of the ladies in the room.
“I’ve heard stories here and there,” Laurie said about a hospital room wedding. “I’ve never seen it done. But I love love.”