A reminder of what is important: a wedding at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital

A reminder of what is important: a wedding at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital

I was having lunch yesterday, reading the paper and looking for something interesting to write about when I read an article about a wedding that took place recently at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in Melrose Park. I decided to reprint it here because it reminded me of what is important: Life, love and family.

And a reminder not to take our days here for granted.

The following was written by Gerry Smith and appeared in Wednesday’s Chicago Tribune:

Patricia Wallenberg had her daughter’s wedding planned out. It would take place this summer. Her husband, Ken, would drive their daughter, Amy, to the elegant banquet hall in his 1929 Model A Ford. There would be a four-course meal, a disc jockey and 150 guests.

She just wasn’t sure she would be there.

Wallenberg, 64, has terminal cancer. She went to a hospital last week for a blood transfusion and nearly died. Relatives rushed to her bedside. Doctors were uncertain whether she would live to see the wedding. So she made a request: Could they have it at the hospital?

“I didn’t think I’d be around to see her on her special day, and that’s what I wanted to do,” Wallenberg said.

On Tuesday night, she watched her daughter, Amy, 33, and Michael Percival, 35, get married in a small chapel at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in Melrose Park, where she is undergoing cancer treatments.

The couple met in May 2009 at a fundraiser for the Diveheart Foundation, a nonprofit in Downers Grove that provides scuba and snorkeling programs to people with disabilities. Amy Wallenberg, a volunteer, sold Percival a raffle ticket.

“I told him to put his phone number on it,” she said.

The couple got engaged last Thanksgiving. Patricia Wallenberg began planning the wedding. She tested the food, made flower arrangements and selected bridesmaid dresses –even though she wasn’t feeling well. After battling breast cancer for years, she learned a year ago that it had spread to her liver. The number of drugs available to treat her is getting fewer, her doctor said.

On Friday, doctors noticed she was anemic and short of breath. They told her family to contact out-of-state relatives. “It looked like things were really critical,” said Dr. David Rosi, her oncologist. “I really wasn’t sure she’d survive the weekend.”

But she did. On Monday, as her condition improved, she asked her daughter and fiance if they wanted to have the wedding at the hospital.

“We might as well go with it as long as everybody is here,” Patricia Wallenberg said.

Before driving 15 hours from their home in Longview, Texas, Amy Wallenberg packed her wedding dress and Percival his suit.

“This wedding is all her mom has been looking forward to for several months,” he said.

“She’s practically planned the whole wedding since we got engaged,” Amy Wallenberg added. “If she wasn’t there to see it, that would have been hard to go through.”

They planned the wedding in a day. The guest list was smaller, just family and close friends who came from as far as Ohio, Texas and Las Vegas. They bought cakes and finger sandwiches at a grocery. They played music from a small CD player. The reception was held in the hospital conference room.

The last-minute preparations seemed to lift her mother’s spirits, Amy Wallenberg said.

On Tuesday, her eyes were more open, her face had more color and she was ordering people around — a clear sign she was feeling more like herself, Amy Wallenberg said.

“This morning she looked the best she’s looked in a long time,” Rosi said.

An MRI revealed the tumor in her liver had shrunk. Doctors told her she could go home in a couple of days, depending on her condition.

At the end of the ceremony, after Amy Wallenberg and Percival exchanged their vows, they ceded the floor to Ken and Patricia Wallenberg so they could renew their vows after 44 years of marriage.

Patricia Wallenberg wore a pink jacket and held a rose. She sat in a wheelchair with an oxygen tank attached to the back.

When the priest asked if he promised to care for Patricia Wallenberg “in sickness and in health,” her husband replied: “I most certainly do.”

 Please find the article here.  Photograph taken by Nunnio DiNuzzo of the Chicago Tribune.

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