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You Got Married In A Hospital?

Being able to fulfil our patients’ wishes is not always an easy task, especially with various COVID-19 restrictions in place. But for a special event like a wedding, our care team pulls out all stops to make it happen! Told through the perspective of SKCH Physiotherapist Ku Yu Jia.

"Wah, Ah ma, you look so pretty today!" I couldn’t help but gush as I walked into the single-bedder ward that would be our makeshift wedding reception room today. The nurses had earlier helped to dress and apply make-up for Ah ma, and the result was a fashionable-looking granny.

With lipstick on and a hint of blush on her cheeks, you could hardly tell that Tay Sai Hoon, or affectionately known as Ah ma by myself and the other members of the care team, had been recuperating in Sengkang Community Hospital for the past 2 months.

Ah ma was fiddling nervously with the hem of her flowery blouse when I walked in, but gave me a shy smile when I greeted her. I quickly helped transfer Ah ma from her wheelchair to a comfortable bench in the room, skilfully hiding Ah ma’s catheter bag behind the bench and draping her festive red cardigan over her lap.

Meanwhile, the bride’s mother, Mrs Lim, was bustling about the room pinning up a few wedding decorations to add to the festive spirit.

"It’ll have to do," she lamented with the sigh of a mother wanting only the grandest wedding for her daughter. Originally slated for 2023, the family had decided to bring forward the wedding almost 2 years so that Ah ma could join in the festivities.

"Xue Ting is her favourite granddaughter," Mrs Lim explained to me, "They have been very close since she was young. Ah ma has always wanted to see her get married and drink her wedding tea."

With Ah ma not being able to be discharged due to her condition, the family had reached out to the SKCH care team with an unusual request – Could they conduct the tea ceremony in the hospital and perhaps take a few wedding photos with the patient?

Of course! was the resounding response from the SKCH team. But with COVID-19 restrictions in place, the clinical team also had to ensure the health and safety of all individuals, especially with Ah ma as the patient.

The family was limited to the usual visitor and visiting time limit restrictions, although special arrangements were made to allow the photographer to be present as an ‘extra’ visitor. The ward 85 care team also specially set aside a single-bed room for the family’s private use on that day.

The bride and groom were running late, as their morning reception had taken longer than expected. But Ah ma seemed to be in good spirits, making small talk with the photographer and me as we waited. She even gamely posed for a few selfies, ‘practice photos’ for the real thing, I joked.

It was to a relaxed but anticipatory atmosphere that the room door swung open to reveal the bride in a white wedding dress and an ornate headdress. I snuck a peek in the other direction, the smile on Ah ma’s face as she beckoned towards her granddaughter could’ve lit up the room.

"Ah ma!" Xue Ting exclaimed as she hurried over, her groom, Gadeause, following behind. She enveloped Ah ma in an affectionate hug before standing up and doing a twirl for her grandmother, asking in Hokkien, "Do you like my dress?" Ah ma looked as though she had de-aged 20 years as she nodded happily.

A few quick snapshots later, Xue Ting ducked into the toilet to change into a more traditional Chinese wedding dress for the tea ceremony. I am reminded once again of how exceptional the situation is as I watched Mrs Lim pouring the tea from a thermos flask into little red paper cups.

Now in a red and gold embroidered dress, Xue Ting and her groom served Ah ma with tea, receiving ang baos (red packets) in return. Beside me, Mrs Lim was quietly tearing up in joy.

Ah ma had one more gift for her favourite granddaughter, fetching a small jewellery box. With shaky fingers, she gingerly latched the gold bracelet around Xue Ting’s wrist. "Ah ma is very happy to see you get married," she said, lovingly patting her granddaughter’s hand.

After all the photos had been taken, Mrs Lim had profuse thanks for the SKCH care team before she left. "Thank you all so much for making all of this possible despite all the current COVID-19 restrictions," she said, "It means a lot to us to have Ah ma celebrate Xue Ting’s wedding with us."

Looking at the smiles on everyone’s faces on that day, especially Ah ma, it was a heartwarming feeling. I went home that day with a sense of satisfaction at being able to go the extra mile for our patients, and for all my colleagues who made it possible.