When one patient at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center met with the hospital chaplain, she had one wish: to marry the man she had known for the past 27 years.

At first, Kathleen “Kathy” Mcclanahan wanted to get married at the end of the week, either Thursday or Friday. Then her health forced her to change her mind. The wedding would happen before the end of the day, and the staffers took it upon themselves to surprise Mcclanahan with a wedding she would never forget.

“We really wanted to make the day special for her,” said Ann Van Steenburgh, integrated care manager at Sentara. “We started planning to get some flowers and a cake.”

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With only four hours to prepare, Van Steenburgh said the hospital staff worked together to make the wedding possible. Even though she has been with Sentara for a little more than a year, Van Steenburgh said that co-workers who had worked longer at the Woodbridge center never saw a wedding there.

One coworker found a veil, champagne flutes and sparkling cider. Others handmade the bouquet and boutonniere. Nursing students helped Mcclanahan prepare for her special day. “It was really a team effort from a lot of people here in the hospital,” Van Steenburgh said.

For Mcclanahan, the wedding day was a long time coming. At age 57, she had spent nearly half her life with Wayne Mcclanahan raising five children together. Sitting at her side in the hospital, Wayne Mcclanahan said he believed they would have gotten married sooner or later.

“We both love each other and had no other person,” Mcclanahan said. “We got along just fine without the paper.”

Their plans on marriage changed after lung disease and pneumonia brought Kathy Mcclanahan to Sentara. As first, she would make trips in and out of the hospital. Then her health took a downturn. “I don’t think she’ll leave the hospital,” Wayne Mcclanahan said. On Nov. 2, he decided to get on one knee, and she said “Yes.”

At 4:30 p.m., hospital staff wheeled Kathy Mcclanahan to the hospital chapel. She held white and red roses, and a sheer veil covered her face. As the doors were opened, her friends and family turned around to see the biggest smile on her face. Both Kathy and Wayne Mcclanahan were surprised by all that the hospital staff had done for their wedding.

“When I gave her the bouquet and said ‘Congratulations,’ she looked at me and said, ‘I just feel so special,” Van Steenburgh said.

“She loved it,” Wayne Mcclanahan said.

Photos of the wedding were posted on Facebook, and more than 2,000 people liked the image, 167 shared the photos and 60 commented giving their congrats. Her daughter, Mary Ann, commented, thanking the staff for giving her mother what she always wanted.

“She’s in and out of the hospital every month, but this time it was much different,” she wrote. “These pictures make all the pain go away.”

Van Steenburgh said she was surprised by all of the social media attention, but she was glad that it shows happy things can happen inside hospitals. As for the ceremony, Wayne Mcclanahan said he will never forget “putting the ring on her finger, and saying I do.”

Kathy Mcclanahan was in ill health the weekend after the wedding, and on Tuesday Wayne Mcclanahan took off work to spend the day by her side.

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