Hospital staff rally to help terminally ill patient tie the knot

Craig and Sharon Walmsley getting married at Wigan Infirmary

Craig and Sharon Walmsley getting married at Wigan Infirmary

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Generous hospital staff pulled out all the stops to ensure a terminally ill patient and his bride got to tie the knot just days before he died.

Craig Walmsley, who was receiving palliative care at Wigan Infirmary, and fiancée Sharon Gunning were concerned they would not be able to celebrate their big day as he was not well enough to travel to Leigh town hall for the ceremony.

None of us had ever organised a wedding in hospital before, we weren’t even sure if it was possible! But within a couple of hours we had spoken to everyone we needed to, we all pulled together and the ceremony was held

Lynne Norburn

However, staff on Lowton ward at the hospital were determined to ensure the couple could become man and wife on the day they had planned and prevent them having to taking the heart-breaking decision to cancel it.

Within a few hours guests had been redirected to the hospital and all the arrangements were in place for a very special wedding ceremony and reception to take place in the infirmary’s chapel and on Craig’s ward.

The staff’s heroic effort meant Craig was able to fulfil his final wish of marrying Sharon as he was discharged to a hospice a few days later and died just a week after the emotional ceremony.

Lynne Norburn, Lowton ward manager, said: “The team on Lowton and I are so very proud that we helped to make it possible for Craig and Sharon to say ‘I do’ on the day they planned to get married.

“None of us had ever organised a wedding in hospital before, we weren’t even sure if it was possible! But within a couple of hours we had spoken to everyone we needed to, we all pulled together and the ceremony was held.  It was so lovely to be part of their special day. It also proved to us that anything is possible when we all work together.”

After coming up with the idea of having the wedding at Wigan Infirmary staff faced a race against time to get everything ready in just a few short hours. They quickly arranged for the registrar to conduct the ceremony in the hospital’s chapel, got all the guests to the new venue in time and organised a photographer to record the special occasion.

While Craig and Sharon were saying their vows and becoming Mr and Mrs Walmsley in front of their close family and friends, the ward staff pooled together money to decorate the groom’s side ward with banners and balloons. The catering team, meanwhile, prepared canapés, sandwiches and drinks and Dr Stephen Gulliford supplied a bottle of champagne as a wedding present. The day proved especially memorable for Craig’s daughter Helena and Sharon’s daughter Lisa, who acted as bridesmaids for the couple.

Both spoke to hospital staff about their pride and happiness at being part of the beautiful ceremony.

Hospital bosses say they hope the wedding will give the family many happy memories to console them in their grief at Craig’s death.

Pauline Law, director of nursing at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh (WWL) NHS Foundation Trust, said: “I am incredibly proud of the staff of Lowton Ward, the palliative care and catering teams.

“I would like to take this opportunity to pass on our sincere condolences to Sharon and the family and friends at this very sad time. Photos of the newlyweds were framed and presented to them on their wedding day. I hope that Sharon will find some peace and comfort in these during this difficult time.”