Three days before open heart surgery, Pedro Ortiz will marry his sweetheart of 10 years at his bedside at Einstein Medical Center this Friday.
But the wedding vows "in sickness and in health" were put to the test for the Philadelphia couple before they could even say "I do."
A marriage license was the only thing stopping Shawna Hannon from marrying the love of her life, who is about to undergo heart surgery. When Hannon filed for the license, though, the city first turned her down, saying it still needed more documentation.
"I mean, prisoners can ask for a last meal. Why can’t we ask for a marriage license?” Hannon asked.
Hannon and her fiancé Pedro Ortiz are determined to pull off their hospital room wedding. After all, tenacity was the basis for mutual attraction when the Philadelphia couple met at the scene of a robbery 10 years ago.
"He was the department manager for the video game store next to where I worked,” Hannon says. “When his shop was robbed, he came by my workplace to check the security footage on our cameras. We became instant friends and have been together since."
The couple has not wavered in their support for one another throughout the years, even when Ortiz was diagnosed and hospitalized with congestive heart failure this past May at the age of 44.
While in critical care at Einstein Medical Center waiting for a heart implant, Ortiz had one request: to marry his fiancée.
"He is scared that he will pass on before we are husband and wife," Hannon says. "I hope that the surgery will work, but he honestly could die at any moment."
Hannon has been working to fulfill her fiancé’s request, filing for a marriage license with the City of Philadelphia. However, both applicants must be present at City Hall in order to apply. But, Ortiz cannot leave the hospital.
There is an exception to this rule, though, for extenuating circumstances like life-threatening medical conditions. Since the couple produced a letter from the doctor confirming the illness, in addition to the proper documents to establish identity and citizenship, a marriage license was issued outside of City Hall.
Hannon brought these necessary documents to City Hall this past Friday. However, after a four-and-a-half hour wait, she was told by the attorney and supervisor on staff that her documents, specifically the doctor’s note, did not meet the Marriage License Bureau’s standards.
“Pedro and I were really upset,” Hannon says.
Today, the couple got word their request for a marriage license was granted.
Supervisor of the Marriage License Office Guy Sabelli says the problem with Hannon and Ortiz’s license application was simple enough to fix. Sabelli says that the letter from the doctor needed to detail Ortiz’s specific medical condition. The doctor had to also declare that Ortiz is of sound mind, meaning he is mentally capable of answering questions and signing legal documents.
“We are not trying to deny their request at all,” Sabelli says.
Sabelli told NBC10 that if Hannon and Ortiz are able to provide the proper documentation with a new doctor’s note, he will be able to send out a deputy or clerk to issue the license as early as tomorrow.
“The people that distribute marriage licenses at hospitals are volunteering to do so,” Sabelli says. “It’s a courtesy that we are glad to offer when we can.”
Ortiz had decided to delay his procedure until he and Hannon are officially married. He wants to know that he is Hannon's husband in case he does not make it through the surgery.
"I just want to marry the love of my life," Hannon says.