Mercy wedding bells

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Angel Idowu
Tuesday, July 1, 2014

JANESVILLE--After being together for nearly 30 years, James and Linda Garner decided to finally tie the knot when they learned James would need extensive open-heart surgery after a heart attack.

“I said 'yes' right then,” Linda said of James' Thursday, June 13, proposal.

”I don't think he could have gone into that surgery without marrying her,” nurse Tasha Fiu said. “He was having a very serious surgery, and I think for fear he might die, he couldn't die before he married her.”

“James has been through a lot,” Linda said. “As a war vet, he has already dealt with Agent Orange and shingles. This surgery really scared us and gave us the push we needed to finally have our wedding.”

At Mercy Hospital and Trauma Center of Janesville, James and Linda received wedding assistance from Fiu, Nursing Director for Critical Care Kristine Phillips and Chaplain Nancy Leafblad.

“I was originally called in as a consultant,”  Phillips said. “With James about to go through a very serious surgery, he was very nervous and needed someone to talk to.”

Together, they worked to prepare for James and Linda's wedding.

“When I got to work Monday morning, I had so many missed phone calls about the wedding," Leafblad said. "We worked everything out so that they could get and sign their marriage license. I picked what I thought were appropriate wedding vows, played beautiful wedding music, and got carnations for her to hold during the ceremony.”

Linda and James needed one more thing to celebrate their wedding appropriately.

“We couldn't get married without our best friend Pop being there,” Linda said. “So my daughter drove all the way down to Rockford to pick him up for the wedding.”

With James in his gown, taped up in “something blue,” the two were finally ready for their wedding.

“I had to monitor James during the wedding,” Fiu said. “He sweated a little and cried a lot, but it was fantastic. There were lots of tears.”

Leafblad said it was “hard to go through the wedding as an officiant without crying.”

“Linda was a nervous bride,” Phillips said. “I had to talk to her and calm her down.”

Both had been previously married and went back and forth on the idea of getting married.

“My daughter had been telling us for years that we need to get married,” Linda said. “But I was never ready. We would go through the planning a few times but then call it off. It never felt right until now.”

With a family member singing a cappella, James and Linda Garner were married in Mercy's chapel at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 17, just four days after James' proposal.

After the wedding, the hospital closed off a waiting room so the couple and their family and friends could enjoy a reception.

“I feel very privileged to have experienced their wedding,” Fiu said. “The chapel is absolutely beautiful, and it couldn't of been more perfect."

With several wedding videos, lots of photos, wedding refreshments and plenty of laughter, the newlyweds were off to a happy start.

“We're both spur-of-the moment people,” Linda said. “The wedding was raw, honest, and so spur of the moment. It couldn't have been more perfect.”

Our hospital's mission statement is to “provide exceptional health care with healing in the broadest sense,” Phillips said. “Their wedding was healing in the absolute broadest sense.”

James went in for what turned out to be a successful surgery Thursday, June 19, two days after the wedding.

That next Monday, he was released from the hospital and is doing well.

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