Oscar Gonzalez, 49, a loving father of four children, was a little over a week away from walking his oldest daughter Ericka down the aisle, when he suffered a sudden stroke.
Oscar would spend three days in the Intensive Care Unit where family and friends gathered in support. His daughter Ericka flew in from Phoenix early to be by his side.
“When my father woke up in the ICU the first thing he brought up was my wedding,” says Ericka. “And honestly it was the last thing on my mind. I couldn’t picture getting married without my father there to walk me down the aisle. Seeing him in the hospital, I was ready to call the whole thing off.”
Oscar was persistent, he wasn’t going to let his daughter call off her wedding because of him. He constantly brought it up with his care team, asking if there was any way he could go.
When Oscar was transferred to the MemorialCare Rehabilitation Institute he continued to push toward recovery. He brought a determined attitude into his therapy sessions, working hard to get back on his feet.
“I asked everyone in rehab if there was any way I was going to be able to attend my daughter’s wedding,” says Oscar. “At first, it looked like I wasn’t going to be able to participate. I was devastated. The only thing I could do was continue to work hard through my therapy and hope for the best.”
Soon the entire rehabilitation care team learned of Oscar and Ericka’s story. It was hard to picture Oscar making it to the wedding because of the severity of his stroke.
“His care team let me know from the beginning that they weren’t sure if it was going to be possible,” says Ericka. “I was heartbroken by the thought. My soon-to-be husband and I started looking at alternatives. We talked to our pastor about doing a small ceremony before the wedding in my father’s hospital room.”
One of Oscar’s nurses, Jennifer Jacobs, RN, MemorialCare Rehabilitation Institute, heard about his situation and rallied his care team together.
“I wanted to do everything in my power to get him to that wedding,” says Jennifer. “I didn’t want to make any promises we couldn’t deliver on, but I started talking to my colleagues about Oscar’s care. Everyone came together to come up with a plan to get him to the wedding. His occupational therapist, Mary Grace Siaden, volunteered to come to the wedding with me to support Oscar and we all started working on making this dream a reality.”
After receiving approval from Oscar’s neurosurgeon, Jennifer informed Ericka, and they coordinated the logistics.
“When Jennifer let me know that her and Mary Grace were going to bring my dad to the wedding, I couldn’t hold back the tears,” says Ericka.
The whole Rehabilitation Institute care team came together the week of the wedding to get Oscar ready for the big day. The team helped him practice his first dance during therapy sessions. They also made sure he got a fresh haircut and shave, and even brought in cologne.
“There wasn’t a dry eye at the wedding when we arrived with Oscar,” says Jennifer. “All of their friends and family knew he had just suffered a stroke, and they all knew how hard he had to work to be there.”
Oscar met Ericka mid-aisle. Beaming, he took his daughter’s hand and guided her to the altar. Later at the reception, Oscar met Ericka on the dance floor. They danced to the song “I Loved Her First” and all the guests were on their feet clapping for them.
“I have so many people to thank,” says Oscar. “Jennifer, Mary Grace, my physical therapists Ken, Shu, Patrick and Jean who really went the extra mile to get me ready. Everyone in the MemorialCare Rehabilitation Institute and anyone who had a hand in getting me to my daughter’s wedding. Thank you. I will never forget that moment and I will forever be grateful.”
Left to right: Mary Grace Siaden, occupational therapist, MemorialCare Rehabilitation Center, Long Beach Medical Center; Jennifer Jacobs, RN, MemorialCare Rehabilitation Center, Long Beach Medical Center; Oscar Gonazalez, patient, MemorialCare Rehabilitation Center, Long Beach Medical Center; Ericka, Oscar's daughter, and her new husband, Ricky.