Ian and Doreen marry at the RHN

This year Ian had several months of rehabilitation at the RHN – but before he left, he and fiancée Doreen decided to tie the knot here at the hospital.

Ian and Doreen's wedding at the RHN

Ian and Doreen

Doreen and Ian had been together for 20 years when, on New Year’s Eve 2017, Ian decided to propose – and Doreen happily accepted. But unfortunately, the very next day Ian began to feel unwell at work, and on returning home, collapsed on the bathroom floor.

Luckily, paramedics responded quickly and saved Ian’s life. They got him to St Thomas’s hospital, where he was stabilised, but remained unconscious for some time. Doctors found that Ian’s illness was the result of advanced sepsis – and an unfortunate effect of this was that Ian had developed blood clots in his brain, causing severe brain damage.

Lying in his hospital bed, it seemed unlikely that Ian would ever regain consciousness – but miraculously, one day he opened his eyes – and Doreen could see that he recognised her.

Coming to the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability

Ian had woken up, but found that he could neither move nor speak. With extensive damage to his brain, his doctors didn’t think that his chances of improving were great. But as Ian had regained consciousness, they recommended that he and Doreen apply for rehabilitation at the RHN – and they grabbed at the chance.

When Ian arrived at the RHN, he started an intensive programme of rehab on Drapers ward. Psychologists found that his ability to think wasn’t affected by his illness, and that Ian could communicate with them – moving his eyes up for ‘yes’ and eyes down for ‘no’.

Speech and language therapists worked on getting Ian to communicate and to develop his ability to talk again, while physiotherapists and occupational therapists helped him to improve movements in his arms and legs. Nursing staff took care of his needs and made sure that Ian felt comfortable on the ward. Ian also started to use Eye Gaze software – which tracks the movement of his eyes over a keyboard – to communicate.

The team began to see marked improvement. As Doreen puts it: “St. Thomas’s Hospital saved Ian’s life. It was the RHN that gave that life back to him. The team have been great and the technology here is amazing – the Eye Gaze in particular is an incredible tool.”

Hymns during the wedding blessing

A wedding blessing to remember

One day when Doreen came to visit, Ian surprised her with a message via his Eye Gaze: “I want to get married asap. And I want to do it here.”

Doreen said ‘yes’ to Ian for a second time, thinking this was a great idea and wanting to mark the occasion with all of the people who’d helped Ian the most. With the end of Ian’s rehab looming, his therapy team went into overdrive to help him organise his own wedding – right down to his outfit, a single-breasted blue suit.

Therapists adapted Ian’s goals to turn his sessions into ‘wedding therapy’. Psychology sessions helped Ian and Doreen to plan the day, while speech and language therapy turned to work on Ian’s vows. His occupational therapists worked on Ian being able to put the ring on Doreen’s finger, and physiotherapy started him on trials with a power chair – so he could make his own way down the aisle and surprise Doreen.

On a beautiful sunny Friday in October, Ian and Doreen’s wedding blessing ceremony went ahead at the RHN.

In front of their family and friends, and with a crowd of RHN staff looking on, Ian and Doreen said their vows and exchanged rings. With a wedding blessing from the hospital’s chaplain, a surprise performance by the RHN choir and a cheeky best man’s speech, it was a very special day. “Everyone was brilliant,” says Ian via his Eye Gaze. He’s positive about their future: “I’m going to get better.”

The happy couple were originally quite nervous to leave St Thomas’s and move to the RHN. Things feel different this time around. United, they’re more confident now. As Doreen put it, “We’ve been happy here but we know we need to move on. This time we feel like the move, wherever it’s to, we’ll cope with it together.”