A steady rain beat a gloomy rhythm around them, but James Wrinkle and Zoe Mercer didn't seem to notice. They stood face to face, held hands, smiled at one another and carried out the plan they had made months before.
A promise had been kept, no matter the circumstances.
The courtyard at Brooksville Regional Hospital wasn't supposed to be the setting for the couple's kismet-like wedding on Valentine's Day. James wasn't supposed to be rolled to his nuptials in a wheelchair. And he wasn't supposed to be saying his vows with a cardiac monitor strapped to his chest.
But in some ways, the wedding that came about was much more special than the one James and Zoe, both of Brooksville, had ever imagined, thanks to hospital staffers, who planned on the fly everything from the music to the decorations, and who showed up by the dozens to witness the ceremony.
Dressed in a gold, knee-length dress she chose for the ceremony, Zoe reflected on the day.
"Everyone here has been tremendous to us," she said. "We had both pretty much decided to call it off. These people made it happen when we didn't think there was a way to make it happen."
The couple — both previously wed — were supposed to be married at the Hernando County Government Center, a popular ritual for couples on Valentine's Day. But on Tuesday, while shopping for wedding flowers, James, 47, suddenly felt ill. His skin became clammy and pale, and he was feeling lightheaded.
"I told him he needed to get to the hospital right now because he was scaring me," said Zoe, 50.
A few minutes later, emergency room doctors went to work running tests. They told James he wasn't going anywhere for a while, and that his wedding plans would have to wait.
Hospital staffers would have none of it.
On Wednesday, the hospital's patient advocate, Dennis Wade, and marketing director, Susan Frimel, began planning an in-house ceremony. They rounded up donated flowers from Westover's Flowers and Gifts. Elegant Events Party Rentals sent over a trellis. Joseph Lotrecchiano, a senior staff accountant and notary, agreed to officiate the ceremony, the first wedding the hospital has ever held.
As of Thursday afternoon, James, an unemployed air-conditioning technician, still hadn't been told when he would be able to leave Brooksville Regional. Doctors have hinted to him that they think he might have a circulatory condition for which he probably will need treatment.
"What's important to me is that we are together," he said "I can handle the rest of it."
Logan Neill can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1435.