When she dreamed of her wedding as a little girl, Kristi Knop Stewart admits she never pictured herself getting married on a hospice unit. But despite the unconventional circumstances, she says her March 14 ceremony turned out to be a wonderful celebration of life, and a day that she and her husband, Andrew, will cherish for the rest of their lives.
Her dad, Otto Knop, who died just two days later, had his last wish fulfilled when he walked her down the aisle. This was thanks in large part to Hosparus Health, and the amazing, compassionate staff at our Inpatient Care Center.
“Everyone at Hosparus were the unsung heroes who made it all possible,” Kristi says. “I don’t know what we would have done without your help.”
Kristi and Andrew’s wedding was originally scheduled for summer 2019. When her dad was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, they decided to move it up to June. Then, in early March when Otto was hospitalized, the family learned he only had a few weeks to live. Because his care could not be managed at home, he was moved from a hospital room at Norton Hospital to the HICC. He was the first patient in the unit’s new wing.
“The room was huge and more than accommodating, with six recliners and ample space for our big family,” Kristi says. “It didn’t feel like we were hovering over him, and he just seemed to relax as soon as we got there.”
For Otto’s comfort, the family decided to bring the entire wedding to him.
HICC Community Director Melissa Burchett and her team worked closely with the family to make sure Kristi and Andrew had a traditional wedding, complete with a cake, champagne, decorations and all the other trimmings.
From rearranging furniture for the ceremony in a classroom adjacent to Otto’s room, to running last-minute errands, to setting aside meeting rooms where the bridal party could get ready, the HICC staff moved heaven and earth to make it happen.
Charge Nurse Bill Meredith and the rest of her dad’s caregivers made sure Otto was as comfortable as possible, nestling him into a wheelchair so he could hold Kristi’s hand as they went down the aisle together.
“Bill was an all-star,” says Kristi. “My dad trusted him. He was there for everything dad needed. He made sure he was comfortable and rested. Everyone at Hosparus went out of their way to make the most special day of our lives possible, and I could not thank you all enough.”
The wedding truly was a celebration of life.
The converted classroom-to-chapel was overflowing with friends and family as Kristi and Andrew said their vows. Once the chairs were cleared out of the classroom for the reception, there was music and dancing. At one point, the whole family sang along to “Teenage Wasteland” by The Who, which was Otto’s favorite band.
“Although it was a such a difficult and unexpected, heavy situation, it was the best it could have been, and Hosparus is a big reason for that,” Kristi says.
The wedding was on Wednesday. The family spent Thursday night sleeping in the recliners surrounding Otto.
“And when we woke up, he had gone to see Jesus,” Kristi says. It was the most peaceful ending the family could have hoped for.
Kristi, an RN herself, says she was impressed with the great care her dad received not just during her wedding, but throughout his time at the HICC. “In healthcare, it can be hard to come in every day, set your own life aside and care for others, but everyone at the HICC made us feel important, they made us feel special. That meant a lot.”
We are so grateful to Kristi and Andrew for allowing us to share in their special day. No one at the HICC will ever forget it. We wish them many years of happiness together!