Wedding Bells Ring Out at Brooks

Patient Experience

Oct 26, 2022

Brooks Rehabilitation is a place of recovery and new beginnings. And nothing symbolizes new beginnings quite like a wedding, which Brooks proudly hosted on September 8, 2022. That day saw Joe Navarro and Sally Tucker “tied the knot” while Joe was a patient at Brooks Rehabilitation Hospital – University Campus.

Joe’s journey to Brooks started with surgery to address spinal stenosis – a narrowing of the spinal canal that puts pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, generating pain. There were unexpected complications after the operation, resulting in an additional surgery and his physicians ordering in-depth blood tests. The tests revealed a rare form of bone marrow cancer in its earliest stage. It’s thought the cancer was the result of Joe’s exposure to chemicals during his military service in Thailand during the Vietnam War. The whole situation left Joe with limited use of his right leg and his need for physical therapy.

Joe and Sally had been together for seven years and had been discussing marriage for a while. As Sally tells it, “When we got over to Brooks, just for the heck of it, I called the people at the Duval County Courthouse. They were so nice. They said they could have us fill out the application, do the interview, and send the marriage license right away.”

Group photo
Ceremony standing
Ceremony
Walking down the aisle
Wheelchair
Wedding Cake
Ceremony
Wedding Cake
Table with wedding cake
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At about the same time this was going on, quite coincidentally, the Brooks chaplain came in to introduce himself. Sally took this as a sign that it was meant to be. Sally relates their conversation: “I asked him if he did marriages, and he replied, ‘Yes, do you guys want to get married here?’ I said yes, and he said he’d see what he could work out.”

Well, the good news traveled fast, and Joe and Sally found themselves getting congratulations from Brooks clinicians and staff alike – along with offers to help out. Sally explains, “They asked me, ‘Do you mind if we participate?’ And I said, no, not at all.”

When the big day came, as Sally says, “It was perfect. They came to Joe’s room, and they helped me wheel Joe down to the day room. They decorated everything. They had streamers and paper petals on the floor. They had a bouquet for me just in case I didn’t have one. It was wonderful. They had a cake, they had a groom’s cake, champagne glasses, and everyone was so excited for us.”

The day room was decorated by Susan Trinidad, Assistant Nurse Manager; Kelsey Brunsman, PT; Anita Schmidt, CNA; and Alcion Brady, 2E Unit Secretary. Case Manager Jessica Gaspar served as official photographer, while Chaplain Joseph Medearis performed the ceremony.

“There were nurses and therapists there, the receptionist was there, Dr. Higdon (Joe’s physician) was there. Everybody was there. It was just wonderful – really special,” says Sally. “It was more special than if we had gotten married with a bunch of our friends, because ‘strangers’ did this for us.”

Joe has since been discharged from Brooks Hospital and is still getting therapy as a Brooks outpatient. Sally says he’s getting stronger with Brooks’ help and their hope is that he’ll be able to walk with a walker. Joe also started chemo and the prognosis is good.

And, although delayed for the time being, Joe and Sally are planning a honeymoon trip – a car tour from Jacksonville up to Maine.

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