After being denied a marriage license, a Philadelphia man thought he would not get to marry his love of 10 years before undergoing a difficult heart surgery. Now, 44-year-old Pedro Ortiz and his fiancée Shawna Hannon are preparing for a fairy-tale wedding at his hospital bedside at Einstein Medical Center on Friday.
“I’m excited, nervous, overwhelmed, ecstatic, happy, there are not enough words to describe how I feel,” Hannon says.
The couple has battled more than Ortiz’s congestive heart failure on their journey to saying “I Do.” Last week, the duo was denied their request for a marriage license. While policy states that both applicants must be present for a marriage license to be issued, there is an exception if one party is unable to be physically at City Hall due to a life-threatening illness.
Initially, the Marriage License Bureau would not accept Hannon’s application because her documents, specifically a letter from a doctor detailing Ortiz’s condition, did not meet their standards. However, after working with Einstein to provide the proper documentation, Hannon was able to obtain a license so she and Ortiz can finally be married. The Bureau even worked with a judge to waive the mandatory three day waiting period says supervisor of the Marriage License Office Guy Sabelli.
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“We have soldiers getting deployed and time-sensitive situations like Ortiz’s that we try to help as quickly as possible,” Sabelli says. “Everyone in the office is glad we could make this happen.”
Receiving that license meant the world to Ortiz, whose only wish was to marry Hannon before the procedure.
“He was crying for half an hour he was so excited,” Hannon says. “I had to calm him down so his blood pressure wouldn’t get too high, but it felt like we had just won the lottery.”
With license in hand, Hannon and Ortiz were ready to become husband and wife. What they did not expect was the staff of Einstein Medical Center was working to provide them with a dream wedding in front of their friends and family.
“The nurses in that unit [critical care] were so compelled by their story and wanted to help,” says Director of Communications for the Einstein Healthcare Network Damien Woods. “The organization as a whole is rallying together to make them feel as special as possible for that day.”
The hospital is providing everything, including food, flowers and decorations. They are building an archway to put over Ortiz’s bed for the ceremony, and converting a conference room into a reception site.
“We provide great clinical care, but there is so much more that goes into caring for people,” Woods says. “We are genuinely trying to make a difference in a person’s life.”
The couple will not see what the hospital has planned for them until the day of the wedding, though Hannon did go out with her sister to pick out her wedding dress.
“The dress is gorgeous, though I won’t let Pedro see it before the big day,” Hannon says. “I am just so grateful, we are just so grateful.”
The couple will get to spend the weekend together as husband and wife before Ortiz undergoes a heart implant procedure on Monday after being in-and-out of the hospital since early May. He will then be in a coma for three to five days before undergoing almost eighteen weeks of in-hospital recovery. Though the road ahead will be long, Hannon and Ortiz are excited to start their lives together.
“I know he’ll live a long and happy life,” Hannon says.
With their wedding only hours away, the last thing the couple has left on their checklist is to write their vows. For Hannon though, she says, “All that matters is they come from our hearts.”