RICHMOND, Va. -- The Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU (CHoR) celebrated a joyful first in 2022 when the parents of a newborn baby got married in the Richmond hospital's NICU.
As you can imagine, there is quite a story behind the circumstances that led to the usual wedding venue.
Tracey Leonard and Adrian Dickens originally planned to marry on December 17, 2021.
"All the planning and details were complete for their ceremonious wedding, until they both came down with COVID just days prior," a CHoR spokesperson said. "At that point, they decided they’d simply go to the courthouse on December 30 when their COVID isolation was over. But their plans were foiled again when Tracey went into labor that day – four months early."
Amanda “Mandy” Dickens was born on December 31.
Born so early, at just 24 weeks, Mandy has not yet been able to leave the hospital. But her parents were ready to get married.
“We wanted Mandy to be there, so we were joking with Cassi (social worker in the NICU) that we should have someone marry us over her incubator,” Tracey said in a statement released by CHoR.
But the joke was on the new parents because Cassi took it seriously and got to work.
“They have created such a loving and joyful environment for their little girl already,” Cassi said in a statement released by CHoR. “I was really moved when they told me all they really wanted at this point was to just get married and have their daughter be present. They had been through so many hurdles with their wedding thus far I wanted them to finally have their moment to celebrate and hopefully make one thing a little easier for them.”
The ceremony all came together in the NICU on Valentine’s Day.
A family celebration is planned once doctors release Mandy from the hospital.
“Having Mandy just refocused us on the small things, what’s most important. When Mandy is home and we have a new normal, we’re going to get a beach house and invite our immediate families – nothing big and showy. We have a new focus,” Tracey said in the statement.
Infants born at or around 24 weeks spend about four months in the NICU, according to one of Mandy’s neonatologists Dr. Nayef Chahin.
“It’s been really nice to help with something so positive during a time that’s been really challenging for families," Cassi said. "The excitement of having a wedding on the unit has brought a lot of joy to the team too, which is something we could all use right now."