Tony and Neunutae Bell had been counting down the days until their wedding.
After getting engaged three years ago and waiting for COVID-19 cases to wane, the couple realized this past Thanksgiving that a rare date would be coming up: Feb. 22, 2022. It’s a palindrome day, which is a number or word that can be read the same way forward and backward — and it was a Tuesday. Such a “Twosday” won’t happen again for 400 years.
But a few days before the planned courthouse nuptials, Tony found himself in the emergency department at Ascension Saint Agnes Hospital. The Baltimore couple was ready to call off the wedding. But once Erynn Bossom, a nurse manager on the neurology and stroke floor found out, she started to put a plan into motion.
“There are no words really to describe how gracious I am for everybody at the hospital,” Tony said. “A whole wedding was put together within 24 hours. It blew my mind.”
A few months ago, the couple said, Tony had a stroke, and so when he started to feel off, he went to an urgent care facility that then sent him to St. Agnes. While there, Tony said, he had a seizure and was admitted to the hospital.
Tony, 45, and Neunutae, 49, first met 15 years ago when Tony was working as a contractor on projects in her house. Both were married at the time, but after divorces they reconnected and started dating about eight years ago.
As it seemed more and more likely that the couple wouldn’t make it to the courthouse on the special date, the two wondered whether it would be possible to still get married — in the hospital. They asked the nurses: Did they think the hospital chaplain would marry them?
Bossom, the nurse manager, found out about the couple the morning of the wedding day at a huddle where the nurses share updates about patients. That’s when the “sparks started to fly” and she jumped into action.
Someone tracked down flowers while another person rearranged furniture at the end of the hall so Tony and Neunutae could get married by the window with a view. Bossom bartered with nurses to swap a pre-cut hospital cake with a homemade one they had brought in for a potluck so the newlyweds could partake in the traditional cake cutting. There were gift baskets, special glasses and charms to go with them, music and, of course, tissues.
“All of a sudden, it was a big event,” Bossom said. “Everybody pulled together because it was such a great moment in someone’s life.”
Recently, Bossom had been feeling run down. With the pandemic nearly two years old, the nurse had done things she never imagined doing in her career and helped too many family members say goodbye to loved ones on FaceTime. Often, she left work feeling as if she could be doing more.
But she said orchestrating the wedding “revitalized my spirit.”
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“It did something for me,” Bossom said. “It’s been really tough, but I left with a feeling that day that I did enough.”
Mary Austin, who has worked at the hospital for more than 30 years, said she never had seen anything like the impromptu wedding.
“I’ve read about these things and I have never in my career seen a wedding done up this well. It was almost the real thing,” the chief nursing officer said. “It made a lot of people happy, and it’ll be a memory that I have for a long time.”
Swapping his hospital gown for a sweater, Tony and his bride walked down the hospital aisle together to “I Do” by Boyz II Men as residents, medical students, physical therapists, lab staff, nurses and other employees lined the hallway. The ceremony didn’t last long, the couple said, but it was something they will never forget.
“We were never trying to do anything big. We just wanted to do something special for us,” Neunutae said. “And this was certainly special.”
Tony was released from the hospital shortly after the ceremony and has since been resting at home and is recovering well. He said he is beyond grateful to the hospital staff and Bossom who helped them tie the knot. But he’s mostly happy to officially have his best friend by his side for life.
“She found me in a place that was crazy, she picked me up and put me back together and stood by my side,” he said. “I can’t ask for no one better than this woman.”