Hospital staff arrange wedding in 24 hours for terminally ill man

The couple had planned to marry on June 25 this year, but had been advised to move the wedding up.

NHS Tayside staff at Dundee’s Roxburghe House arrange wedding in 24 hours for terminally ill man NHS Tayside
David Hughes and Kathleen Murray had decided to marry on June 25 but were advised to move their wedding up.

Staff at a palliative care facility in Dundee pulled out all the stops to arrange a wedding with just 24 hours notice for a terminally ill man.

David Hughes, a patient at and Kathleen Murray had decided to marry on June 25 this year but were advised to move their wedding up because of Mr Hughes’ declining health.

With just 24 hours notice, staff nurse Dawn Chaplin and ward clerk Pamela Massie, who work in the specialist palliative care unit, decided they wanted to do all they could to make the day special for Mr Hughes and his bride-to-be.

Unbeknownst to the couple, the pair decorated the sanctuary room within Roxburghe House, transforming it with beautiful flowers, balloons and bunting for the couple’s wedding.

Mr Hughes, 64, was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer in March this year and was given three to six months to live.

The couple, who have dated since meeting through mutual friends at a local pub in 2006, were “blown away” at the effort that the staff had made to make their special day a memorable one. 

The new Mrs Hughes-Murray said: “We were really touched, its amazing what they did with less than 24 hours notice and it really felt like the community coming together.

“I lost my mum last year at Roxburghe House in the room next to David’s and we got married a year after she passed.

“We thought that a register was just coming to the room – we didn’t realise that the staff had done everything they had and it was a real surprise when I walked in.”

The 57-year-old added: “My mum died last year on the same day we got married, and in the same house so when we were in the room and finished our vows, a butterfly came in out of nowhere and smacked me in the face – and I believe it was my mum coming in to give me a kiss on the cheek.

“I think it’s important to believe in what you want to believe, and it’s beautiful to have these moments when you see people come together. 

“It was so thoughtful, we were caught totally off guard and they went well above and beyond.”

Following the close knit wedding ceremony, the new Mr and Mrs Hughes cut their wedding cake and, along with their guests, enjoyed sandwiches, cupcakes and other treats.

The newlywed went on to praise the staff’s efforts for her surprise wedding and beyond: “In times like this, you feel your most sad and most lonely, and then something like this happens and it blows you out of the water. When you’re here it feels like you’re walking into familiar faces, they take time with David and all the other patients and really make an effort to get to know everyone. It’s beautiful.

“David is an amazing man, he’s very pragmatic about death and always has been. He’s a really strong man and the rock of the family and a role model with two grandchildren who absolutely adore him.

“Although we brought the ceremony forward, hopefully he will be around on Saturday so we can celebrate with more friends.”

Ward clerk Ms Massie said: “When we realised that David and Kathleen had brought forward their wedding day, and it was happening within 24 hours, Dawn and I were absolutely determined to make their day as special as it could be.

“We could not have achieved what we did without the incredible support we received from local businesses who donated cupcakes, sandwich platters, cakes, beautiful arrangements of flowers and helium balloons. So a big thank you to Asda, Balloons Made For You, Morrisons Superstore, Broughty Ferry florist Williamson’s and Clark’s Bakery.

“Staff in specialist palliative care were delighted that David and Kathleen’s wedding went ahead and that we were able to sprinkle a little bit of wedding magic on their day.”