CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) — Weddings often take months or years of planning, but when a patient at UNC Hospital was too sick for the wedding she planned, a team at the hospital scrambled to put a ceremony together in less than a week.

It may not be the place anyone expects to get married, but with a few decorations and a whole lot of determination, the chapel at UNC Hospital transformed into a wedding chapel.

“Anybody who heard about it really wanted to help and make this happen,” recalled ICU nurse, Sophie Austin.

Austin has seen a lot in her career, but she’s never been part of a ceremony quite like this.

Her patient Maria Cipple Leon is undergoing extensive treatment for cancer, and when it became clear that she couldn’t leave the hospital for her wedding, her family, friends, and care team brought the wedding to her.

“Everyone sort of came together,” Austin explained. “One of the medical students on her team brought in a cake (and) one of the residents on her team came in and brought in this bouquet of flowers that she had picked from her own yard. Then nutrition services went out and got some cupcakes.”

They expected a small ceremony, attended mostly by hospital workers and few family members, but as the bride made her way toward the hospital chapel, people lined the halls.

“All these people that came together just to be there for her,” said Austin.

Like weddings everywhere, the ceremony brought smiles and tears, not just to the couple’s loved ones but to the health care workers who helped make it all happen.



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“Most of the service was in Spanish but [the priest] spoke to those of in the medical field for a few moments in English, just to sort of say, ‘I recognize the love this takes on your part as well.'” Austin said.

The emotion of the day needed no translation. Those who attended the wedding will always remember it.

“The joy,” Austin described. “The absolute abundance of just love that was there.”