Couple get married in hospital chapel so two-year-old son can attend

Couple get married in hospital chapel so their two-year-old son could attend as he waits for heart transplant in intensive care unit

  • Suzie Small and Jimmy Francis married in hospital so son Romeo could be there
  • Two-year-old Romeo is awaiting a heart transplant at Southampton Hospital
  • The Archbishop of Canterbury gave them a special licence due to the pandemic 

A couple have tied the knot in hospital so their sick two-year-old son could watch his parent’s get married.

Suzie Small and Jimmy Francis from Basingstoke didn’t want their son Romeo, who is awaiting a heart transplant, to miss out on their wedding day.  

So when the big day came along and Romeo was still in hospital bosses at Southampton Children’s Hospital, Hampshire, allowed them to hold the ceremony there instead.

Suzie Small and Jimmy Francis from Basingstoke didn’t want their son Romeo (pictured together), who is awaiting a heart transplant, to miss out on their wedding day

The Archbishop of Canterbury gave them a special licence due to the pandemic and it took place at the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust chapel. 

Bride Suzie said: ‘The nurses did an amazing job and took away the stress of arranging a wedding. We can’t thank them enough.’ 

Two-year-old Romeo suffers from a very rare heart condition called Restrictive Cardiomyopathy which affects one in a million children.

He is currently awaiting a transplant and is in the pediatric intensive care unit. 

Nurses made the happy couple a cake and the wedding was performed by Trust Chaplain, Reverend Sue Pitkin.

Two-year-old Romeo, of Basingstoke, suffers from super rare heart condition Restrictive Cardiomyopathy which affects one in a million children

Romeo was baptised in January by Reverend Pitkin, who also carried out his parents’ wedding

WHAT IS RESTRICTIVE CARDIOMYOPATHY? 

In restrictive cardiomyopathy (RCM), the heart’s muscle cells are replaced with scar tissue.

This causes the muscle walls of the ventricles (the lower chambers of the heart) to stiffen, which makes it harder for the heart to beat.

In particular, the stiffened muscles cannot relax properly, which means the ventricles can’t fill with blood. This lowers blood flow around the body.

Some people with RCM have no, or very mild, symptoms. But over time, the restricted function of the heart can lead to heart failure, symptoms for which include tiredness, shortness of breath and palpitations.

RCM is relatively rare compared to other types of cardiomyopathy. It is most often diagnosed in children at 5–6 years of age, although it can develop at any age.

Although RCM cannot be cured, treatment aims to reduce and control symptoms, particularly those of heart failure. In some cases where the heart function is very poor, people may require a heart transplant.

It can be genetic and run in families. It can also develop following some treatments for cancer, such as radiation therapy.

Suzie added: ‘We were originally booked to get married in Basingstoke but it wouldn’t have been possible for Romeo to leave the hospital and attend.

‘We weren’t bothered where we got married, just as long as he was there.’

Nurses made the happy couple a cake and the wedding was performed by Trust Chaplain, Reverend Sue Pitkin.

Reverend Pitkin said: ‘It has been a joy to get to know Romeo and his family over the last few months.

‘I was delighted to be asked to baptise him in January, and then when I heard the wonderful news that his Mummy and Daddy were getting married and would like me to be involved in their wedding, I felt very honoured and also very nervous.

‘This was the very first time I’ve officiated at a wedding within the hospital and it felt like a huge responsibility as well as a delight.

‘I had to speak to someone in the Archbishop of Canterbury’s office to find out if this wedding would be allowed.

‘And I was overjoyed when he agreed with a swift “Yes, under these circumstances we will issue a special licence so you can marry Suzie and Jimmy”.

‘How lovely that The Church of England was so keen to help Romeo’s parents to get married.’

She added: ‘On the day everyone in PICU, staff and the Friends of PICU charity, pulled out all the stops to make the chapel look beautiful and to enable Romeo to enjoy his parents’ wedding.

‘His big sister was there too, and the very kind play services team even provided a lovely gift for her to make the day even more special.

‘What an amazing and joyful occasion, a day that I will never forget.’

The family have raised £16,000 for Romeos treatment via a Just Giving page, the money will be used to ‘get the care and equipment he will need for the rest of his life’. 

Romeo was born April 5 2019 weighing just 4lb5oz and had open heart surgery when he was just four months old.

The married couple cut the wedding cake made by nurses at Southampton Children’s Hospital

The Archbishop of Canterbury gave them a special licence due to the pandemic and it took place at the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust chapel (hospital pictured)

Writing to a blog where they update supporters on Romeo’s condition his parent’s said Romeo will have to stay in hospital until he receives a new heart, ‘this can take anywhere between 6-12 months’.

The parents added: ‘Spreading awareness for organ donation is vital to help babies like Romeo, no one wants to think of the worst happening to a loved one but it is so important to have those conversations and to share your wishes as you could save up to 9 lives. 

‘Romeo is one of a kind, I hope by sharing his story I can spread awareness around the importance of organ donation. Time is against us now as his restrictive cardiomyopathy has progressed so much but we have hope that one day somebody will make the selfless decision to share the gift of life with him and that we will find the perfect match so that he can have a future.’

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