FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4)– It is the day every bride dreams about… her wedding day. Yet 18-year-old Grace Justice wasn’t planning to get married this soon.
“I’m just…trying to come to terms with it still,” she said.
Last month, Grace’s dad suffered a severe brain bleed and required immediate surgery. The retired police officer spent nearly two weeks in a coma, only to wake up and learn he also has an aggressive blood cancer.
“One of the doctors thought I didn’t have a chance,” Paul Justice told CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann.
Not knowing how long her dad had to live, Grace and her boyfriend decided to get married on Valentine’s Day.
“I just always wanted him to be there for my big day,” Grace said.
And Paul couldn’t imagine missing it.
“Seeing her happy,” Paul said through tears, “that’s a big deal.”
When UCHealth learned one of their patients was trying to plan a wedding quickly, Poudre Valley Hospital staff jumped into action. They helped coordinate everything from the venue to the photography. As luck would have it, one of the UCHealth lifeline flight nurses is also a professional wedding photographer.
“As soon as I heard the story, I knew I had to get involved,” Kristen Rush, the flight nurse/photographer, told CBS4’s Werthmann.
Patient representative Fran Culler just so happens to do floral arrangements.
“Of course for Valentine’s Day it had to have red roses,” she said of the handmade bride’s bouquet.
The niece of an oncology massage therapist made the wedding cake, and another oncology nurse pitched in to do Grace’s hair and makeup.
“I literally could not be more grateful,” Grace said. “They don’t know me. They didn’t have to do anything. It really means a lot.”
The chaplain from Medical Center of the Rockies, who was with Grace and her family when Paul fell in January, agreed to officiate. He has a unique connection to the unfortunate trauma Paul is going through.
“Thirteen years ago I had a brain tumor myself,” Chaplain Terry Skov said. “Anybody who goes through something this traumatic, my heart goes out to them. And it’s a father’s dream to walk his daughter down the aisle.”
To help make that dream come true, Poudre Valley Hospital staff lined the hallway which lead to the hospital chapel, creating a special aisle where Grace and her dad walked side by side.
“I love you,” Paul said to Grace.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the small chapel, especially for Paul who had treatment for his cancer just hours earlier.
“I’m thankful that my beard didn’t fall out,” he said, noting how he’s lost most of the hair on his head.
Paul’s speech is a bit stunted due to his brain injury. Using every bit of strength, the proud father of the bride made sure to share an important message to the newlyweds.
“I want you to remember the little things,” he said during the ceremony. “Having busted my noggin, that’s the things I remember… Cherish those memories.”
This Valentine ’s Day is sure to be a memory they will all cherish forever.
“I am just overwhelmed and overfilling with love!” Grace said.
Paul has an aggressive yet curable leukemia, according to his doctor. The 57-year-old has a long road of chemotherapy and medical treatments ahead, but he’s hopeful he will one day attend the weddings of his grandchildren.