(NEW ORLEANS) – Yolanda Welsh and Michael Cheeks had been looking forward to their wedding, planned for November 2016, since Michael proposed last August. The couple have known each other for nine years and have been dating for the last 18 months.
Their plans changed when Yolanda was admitted to University Medical Center (University Medical Center) New Orleans last week and they learned that her stage 4 kidney disease was now at stage 5. Michael and Yolanda decided to move up their wedding and contacted the hospital’s attorney and staff for guidance on notarizing their marriage license.
“I really didn’t know in what kind of condition I’d be by the time of our wedding in November,” Yolanda said. “I wanted to make sure we got married while I was still able to walk down the aisle and enjoy it, so we knew we needed to do it right away.”
Knowing that this is not the wedding Yolanda had dreamed of, hospital staff immediately got to work to make their wedding special. They reserved the hospital chapel for a ceremony for the following day, worked with the hospital chaplains to find a minister to marry the couple with only a day’s notice, and arranged for items such as a veil, jewelry, wedding bouquet and boutonniere, aisle runner, rose petals, guest book, toasting glasses and more.
As Yolanda walked down the aisle on Friday, April 22, 2016, a vocalist from the University Medical Center Voices of Joy, the hospital’s staff choir, sang Etta James’ “At Last,” Yolanda’s dream wedding song.
“I was just overjoyed that I could help Yolanda and Michael to make this happen,” said Reverend Fred J. Powell, III, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of New Orleans, who performed the ceremony. “When I saw them together in the hospital on Friday afternoon, I was just struck by their joy, by the calmness of their love, and the fact that they deeply trusted in God. They saw that this was a beginning and that God would make a way.”
Immediately following the ceremony, Michael pushed Yolanda in her “Just Married” wheelchair to the hospital’s conference center as staff followed in traditional New Orleans second-line fashion. As they entered the conference center, Yolanda and Michael were greeted with bubbles and a surprise reception, which included a wedding cake and refreshments donated by the Food Services Department.
During the reception, Michael said to all in attendance, “Your signs of compassion, your outpouring of love, and your willingness to help us make this a reality, we can never compensate this and we will never forget the University Medical Center family. We are a part of the University Medical Center family and we just love you guys.”
Photos from the wedding can be found on University Medical Center New Orleans’ Facebook page, www.facebook.com/umcno.