Florida nurse granted dying wish, receives ICU wedding

PINELLAS PARK, Fla. (WFLA) – You could see the love on their faces and feel the joy in the room. This couple beamed with excitement. Theirs is a loyalty that has lasted a lifetime.

They met as teenagers, when they were 19 years old, on the Delaware shore. She was a waitress, and he was a cook in a restaurant. They knew. And now, nearly 40 years later, they’re finally newlyweds.

But, this is no ordinary love. Amidst the happiness, there is bittersweet emotion. Nancy Jeandell is dying. The ICU nurse at Bay Pines had been suffering from back problems for the last two months. She shrugged it off as stress from the job and long workdays.

The pain got to be so intense, the 57-year-old went to her doctor to get it checked out, hoping to resolve the issue. After an MRI, Nancy received the news that changed her life.

She had tumors growing on her spine. She was suffering from Stage 4 cancer, and it was too late. The cancer has already spread throughout her lungs and her bones. Shockingly, this news came just a week ago.

Within 48 hours, Nancy was in the operating room having the tumors removed from her spine, replaced with rods to strengthen her remaining bones. Then, Wednesday morning, she had a port placed in her chest to receive chemotherapy and radiation. The kind nurse with the gentle spirit has smiled at everyone who enters her room at Northside Hospital in Pinellas Park.

But, there was one last thing she wanted, one last hope  She had one last wish. She wanted to marry her lifelong sweetheart, David Griffith. And, with the help of countless doctors, nurses, friends and loved ones, it happened.

The wedding of Nancy and David was organized in less than 24 hours and happened Wednesday afternoon. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house, as those who supported this brave woman lined the ICU when the Wedding March was played on an iPhone.

“I see that I love him forever. And, I see that I might not have too long. But, I’ve come to peace with it.  I’ve come to peace with it.”

Medical students completing their residencies at the hospital decorated the room, while nurses and friends brought a wedding cake, cupcakes and flowers. The hospital directors of Bay Pines and Northside both attended the service. Even the judge in Pinellas County granted the couple a wedding license, forgoing the three-day waiting period. A notary, who is part of the support group, made it official.

When David walked in the ICU to see his bride, he was beaming. He didn’t even wait until the end of the ceremony to kiss her. Once he saw his longtime love, he leaned over and sealed their love with a tender moment of affection.

When we ask the bride what she saw as she looked into the eyes of her new husband, she began crying.

The groom gently stroked Nancy’s hair and added, “She’s a fighter. Nancy is a fighter.”

It is clear that this longtime nurse has had an impact on countless lives. She has such a warm spirit and a way about her that makes everyone in the room at ease and happy. Her buddies, who are nurses, gathered outside the room, smiling as Nancy talked about her new marriage and her new husband.

She offered this advice when it comes to making the most of life. “Don’t wait, because last week I was going to work, going to the grocery store, and this week, I have metastatic cancer. And I don’t know how long I’ve got. It’s a bad cancer and (I’m) only 57-years-old.”

Nancy realizes her prognosis is not good. She has chosen to take on one round of chemotherapy and radiation and then will reassess the situation. But, it’s clear. One thing is for sure. These newlyweds are filled with gratitude. They are just happy to be near one another. They plan to make the most of their new marriage and enjoy every moment they have left.

“Live a full life, and do the best you can in this life,” Nancy told us. “That’s what I’ve got to say. Love the people that are around you.”

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