'Muy contenta' — very happy Patient at NorthEast gets wedding she hoped for after all

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 23, 2007

By Lee Brower

NorthEast Medical Center

CONCORD — In the middle of planning for the wedding of her daughter next month, NorthEast Medical Center nurse Dianne Luckey picked up some very wedding-related conversation from her patient, Alma Dante.

Dante, 59, who is suffering from congestive heart failure, had just been admitted to Luckey’s area in the hospital’s Progressive Coronary Care Unit after undergoing implant surgery that morning to install a defibrillator in her chest. As fate would have it, besides being a great nurse, Luckey is also fluent in Spanish.

Dante and her fiancĂ©, Antonio Gonzales, 54, wanted to get married, but several obstacles seemed to stand in their way — starting with a legal challenge. How to get their marriage license notarized when the bride can’t physically make the trip to the county clerk’s office?

By early afternoon, thanks to Luckey’s resourcefulness, multiple contacts and the willingness of several departments and their friends outside to help, Dante had the following arrangements completed for her 5 p.m. wedding:

* A marriage license — notarized.

* A stunning new, white robe to wear for the ceremony.

* Her hair shampooed and styled.

* A bridal bouquet of white, long-stemmed roses.

* A white rose boutonniere for the groom.

* The hospital chapel complete with a talented nurse pianist — decorated and reserved.

* A wedding cake and roomful of smiling hospital employees serving as witnesses.

Although she is very ill, Dante’s face reflected the excitement of the upcoming occasion. Then the phone rang a little after 3 p.m. as the couple’s Catholic priest from the local parish called to advise he had a conflict for the 5 p.m. ceremony and would be unable to officiate.

No problem.

Nurse Ragan Hicks, now part of the growing NEMC marriage support team, had an uncle, the Rev. Terry Brown, who is a local Baptist minister. Could he come by the hospital to marry Dante and Gonzales?

“Sure,” came the reply from the pastor. “I can be there at 6:30.”

Because Brown didn’t speak excellent Spanish, the staff quickly arranged, through their contacts, for a translator to participate in the wedding ceremony.

And so it came to pass that on Thursday, Jan. 11, the doors to the chapel inside NorthEast Medical Center opened to reveal Alma Dante dressed in a flowing white robe while sitting in a shiny wheelchair.

A familiar hymn played on the piano by nurse Lori Barbee served as her entry down the center aisle where Brown and Gonzales awaited her arrival.

Marital vows were repeated and exchanged in both English and Spanish, a few tears were shed and a traditional kiss was shared. On their way out of the chapel, the couple passed through a cascading cloud of bubbles blown across the aisle by those in attendance.

Dante and Gonzales returned to her hospital room where they sampled their wedding cake and toasted the occasion with some hospital-issued ginger ale. After starting the morning out in the operating room and later winding up being the star of her own wedding, it was safe to assume that the new Mrs. Gonzales regarded the day as both large and eventful. “Muy contenta,” she said.

Very happy.

Standing in the back of the chapel at the conclusion of the ceremony and a very long day for her as well, Luckey smiled to herself and agreed. “Muy contenta,” she said.

Very happy.

Lee Brower is director of communications for NorthEast Medical Center.