Months ago, Jane Hartstein, a resident of Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center on Long Island, started trying to wean herself off a ventilator in the hopes of making it to her daughter’s wedding in New Jersey.
But when challenges made it clear that Hartstein wouldn’t be able to attend, Gurwin staff and her daughter, Nicole, plotted to bring the festivities into Hartstein’s home of three years.
Therapeutic Recreation Leader Patti Dowsett said she had about 30 days to transform the family lounge into a makeshift wedding chapel. Equipped with a wall-mounted oxygen port that could run a portable unit and plenty of oversized window to allow oversight, the room was the perfect location.
The bigger question was how to convince Hartstein to roll down the hall on a random day in May. She’s often most comfortable in her room, in her pajamas, Dowsett said.
That’s when respiratory therapist Nydia Perez stepped up. She came up with a “cardiologist’s appointment” and warned Hartstein that she’d need to get dressed that day. On the morning of, Perez had a silver lounge wear top ready, thanks to the maid of honor, Nicole’s sister.
After a little sweet talking, the ladies escorted Hartstein to the lounge, which had been made magical with white tulle, twinkling lights and a donated canopy. Housekeeper Dasi Ramirez Dehildgo intended to use the space and canopy as a graduation party the following weekend, but gave her OK for the couple to use it as a chuppah first.
“I was watching them bring her out of her room, and when she saw that, that’s when her face lit up,” recalled Dowsett. “She started crying, and it was so emotional.”
A rabbi and a priest joined the couple and a few staff members for the official ceremony, which was followed by a meal of celebration.
Nicole is the first of Hartstein’s two daughters to be married, and she had been crushed to think she would miss it, Dowsett said.
As it was, she got to see two weddings. Days later, Nicole and her husband, Edward Guida, exchanged vows again at a country club that helped Gurwin set up a live stream of the whole thing to air on Hartstein’s in-room TV.