Laughter isn't just curative for their patients. Massive doses of humor got Kyle Jeanne Dalton and Adam Gray through medical school.
Adam's wit runs wry and dry, with a sarcastic bite. Kyle's quick and clever wordplay would tickle Tina Fey. Observing the comical aspects of life keeps their own pulses steady.
What's their Rx for romance under stress? Basketball, craft beers, Netflix and their two dogs, Butters and Waffles. Also the NBC series Friday Night Lights and an abiding interest in astronomy.
A meteor shower meetup in November 2011 turned into a date when none of their other first-year University of Florida classmates joined them at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park near Gainesville.
It wasn't a very clear night, as they recall, but peering at the galaxy prompted the pair to share their wildest dreams.
Astronaut? Flight surgeon? Psychiatrist? Kyle considered several career paths after graduating Harvard with a psychology degree. She took her time deciding, working and traveling in Ireland and California for more than a year.
Adam, 25, majored in chemistry at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, already certain he wanted to practice emergency medicine like his father, Orlando ER physician Don Gray.
Kyle opted for a medical degree, too, which she preceded with a master's in bioethics and medical humanities at the University of South Florida. She entered USF as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy, studying on an Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship, to be repaid with four years of active duty. Her father, oncologist William Dalton, former president and CEO of Moffitt Cancer Center, is the founder and CEO of its biotech subsidiary, M2Gen.
Somehow, between learning hundreds of diseases and cramming for licensure boards, the couple squeezed in vacations to Japan, the Dominican Republic and northwest Washington.
But when they couldn't escape, they played basketball.
"At first, it was one-on-one," said Kyle, 30, who played shooting guard on the Harvard women's varsity team, and before that at Tampa Prep. When their competitive natures kicked in, Adam had the sense to organize intramural teams so they could play together.
One night in late June 2014, after shooting hoops at the gym, grilling pizza and watching half of The Wolf of Wall Street, Adam launched his proposal by suggesting some stargazing. They drove to the scene of their first date and scanned the sky for #Can'tLose, the star Kyle bought for him for Valentine's Day.
The star registry name comes from their favorite TV show, Friday Night Lights, about a football team in Texas. They try to live by the coach's mantra, which was iced on their wedding cake and quoted in Kyle's vow: Clear eyes, full hearts and together we can't lose. Her "Yes!" came faster than the mosquitoes that swarmed them.
Sobering news arrived not long after the high of the engagement, Kyle said. Her mother, Karen Dalton, was diagnosed with lymphoma, stage 1. The family relied on Moffitt for treatment, and she responded well.
Flipping through the calendar, May 9 seemed ideal to set as the date for their wedding: the 10th anniversary of Miles for Moffitt. Mrs. Dalton originated the annual 5K and 8K run-walk, which has raised $2 million for cancer research.
"We had the lofty goal of running and getting married the same day," Kyle said. "I would have loved to have done that until I realized the hairdresser and makeup artist had to start at 9 a.m."
The bridal party signed up as virtual runners, but Mrs. Dalton started her day at a survivor tribute, then dashed to downtown St. Petersburg to dress for the wedding, which was held on the Dalí Museum lawn.
Officiant Tom Winters, Kyle's uncle, cued the couples' vows. Adam's basketball reference drew laughs from the bridesmaids, who wore monogrammed yellow Chuck Taylor Converse shoes.
Kyle promised to stock Mountain Dew, gummy bears and Chick-fil-A on their travels, adding, "even if those road trips are in Yemen. Hashtag thanks Navy."
Dalí clocks, books and a tipsy cake for each guest topped the tables at the outdoor reception. Saluting all the mothers on the eve of Mother's Day, the Bay Kings band dedicated Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield to the mother of the bride.
One week later, Drs. Dalton and Gray received their diplomas and celebrated, appending the initials M.D. to their names.
Their stars have aligned again, now over Washington, D.C.: emergency medicine residency for Adam at Georgetown University Hospital and a psychiatry residency for Kyle at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
Contact Amy Scherzer at [email protected] or (813) 226-3332.