Coeur d’Alene Couple Says “I Do” While Groom is a Patient in Kootenai Health
Wedding bells rang for Dale Thompson and Ginnie Dawson on Aug. 24, 2021.
The happy couple didn’t say “I do” on a mountaintop or tropical sandy beach.
They were married in a COVID-19 unit of Kootenai Health, where Dale was being treated for COVID-19, pneumonia, a brain tumor, lung cancer and other ailments.
“We were originally supposed to be married Aug. 6, but he went into the hospital on July 27,” Ginnie said, adding that Dale wanted to be sure she was taken care of if anything happened to him.
“We wanted to share this happy moment with the precious time we have,” she said.
The nurses on the unit doubled as the wedding party that day. Critical care nurse Ally Ferguson made a daisy chain out of printer paper. Using bouffant hairnets and a capper pad, they made Dale a dapper bowtie and crafted a veil that could go over Ginnie’s personal protective equipment. Nurse Matt Dingman called a local ordained firefighter to perform the ceremony. Ally folded coffee filters into paper flowers to make a bouquet for the bride.
“No wedding is complete without a bouquet, so I made a bouquet out of coffee filters and spoons,” Ally said.
It all happened pretty fast, Ginnie said. She had been running errands when she received the call that Dale was on a mission to marry his bride that day. They’d planned on having the ceremony after he was discharged, but this day, love couldn’t wait.
“Ally called me around 1 p.m., and said, ‘OK, I found someone to officiate for you. When can you be here?’” Ginnie said. “She said, ‘We’re just waiting on you! It will be you and Dale and the minister in the room and probably a few of us nurses are going to poke our heads in the room because it’s exciting for us, and I may or may not have made a few decorations.”
Pleasantly surprised, Ginnie said she laughed the whole way through the ceremony.
“I was so happy and so blessed that they were going to let us do this,” she said. “And here comes this whole flood of nurses. The next thing you know they’re all in there. They were all so excited about it. That was pretty cool.”
Although she had been common law married before, this was officially Ginnie’s first wedding.
“It was truly a blessing for the circumstance and the situation,” she said. “It was really cool everything got to happen that way, and we got to have so many smiles.”
According to chaplain services manager Jennifer James, around 15 weddings have been performed on hospital grounds in the 18 years she’s been at Kootenai Health.
“Some have been patients, some have been family members who wanted patients to be present. Most of the patient situations were patients who were at end-of-life or thought they might be,” Jennifer said. “We’ve done them in patient rooms, in the chapel, in the courtyard.”
This was Ally’s first time attending an ICU wedding.
“I went in that morning, it was my first day with Dale, and I said, ‘How are you doing?’ He said, ‘I just want to get married.’ And I said, ‘Let’s see what we can do to get you married!’” Ally said.
Ally made several phone calls to ensure this was something that could happen. She received the go-ahead from hospital supervisors, but the original officiant was not able to come into the hospital that day. The following day, Ginnie retrieved the marriage license while nurses prepared.
Nurses gathered in Dale’s room as his sister viewed it all from a device on FaceTime.
“It was really cool that all the nurses came and stood with us,” Dale said.
“We are both so extremely thankful to the entire hospital for making our dream come true, and even more blessed that Dale was able to come home,” Ginnie said. “He is quite the warrior. I couldn’t have dreamed of a more wonderful man to share life with.”
Dale said the ceremony was “fantastic.”
“Not only did they take very excellent care of me,” he said, “they set this whole thing up and got it in motion and just made our day. It was very special to us they took the time to make that effort to make it happen.”
“It was an uplifting moment for everybody for the day,” Ally said.
“The level of excitement over something that’s fairly simple that people take for granted was palpable that day,” she said. “Everybody was involved. Everybody helped out with it and just had fun with it. In a time that things are so dark, this was one bright spot in everyone’s day.”