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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Stony Brook Hospital helps ill mother hear son say “I do”

Cancer patient Catherine Holm (bottom row, fourth from right) gathered with family members at Stony Brook University Hospital on Monday, April 18 to witness the wedding of her son and his fiancée. PHOTO CREDIT: ANDREW HENRIQUES

Just days away from attending her son Mark’s wedding, Catherine Holm was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. She could not risk flying to Puerto Rico for the wedding because of her compromised immune system.

Catherine’s future daughter-in-law, Joanna Holm, who had interest in holding a ceremony that her mother-in-law could attend, noticed there was a small chapel in one of the lower levels of Stony Brook University Hospital. Instead of the small service, the nurses at the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit came together to help organize a beautiful ceremony at the hospital’s chapel on April 18 so Catherine could attend her youngest son’s wedding.

“She was in tears,” Maggie Knight, a Stony Brook Hospital nurse, said, describing Catherine’s reaction upon learning of the plans to hold the ceremony at the hospital.

The nurses at the hospital truly made this a day to remember for the Holm family. They provided music and patient dining donated all the food for the event. They even had a reception.

Just over twenty members from both the bride and groom’s immediate families attended the ceremony. Catherine was thrilled that she would be with her family on the day, wear her dress and take part in other wedding traditions.

“She got to dance with her son at his wedding,” Catherine’s husband, Mark Holm, said. “It was amazing.”

The family decided to keep the guest list limited to immediate family only. This was done in large part to lower the risk of compromising Catherine’s weakened immune system. She has been in and out the hospital for the past few weeks, already enduring two cycles of chemotherapy.

The Holms’ also asked those who attended the wedding to not bring gifts. Instead, they requested that guests join the bone marrow registry with the hope of finding a match for Catherine.

The doctors of the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at Stony Brook University Hospital are currently working to see if any of Catherine’s siblings are a match. A successful match would lead to bone marrow transplant surgery that could save Catherine’s life. If any of her siblings are not a match, she will be forced to rely on the bone marrow registry.

Christina Wood, a fellow patient at the hospital, played a large role in planning the wedding, particularly when it came to decorations. Although she could not physically decorate, she instructed the nurses and staff members on how and where to decorate using her ideas.

“They didn’t even give us a menu,” Catherine’s husband, Mark, recalled. “They said, ‘Tell us what you want and you’ll have it.’ ”

This is not the first time that Stony Brook Hospital has hosted a wedding ceremony. In the summer of 2014, the hospital hosted a wedding for another patient, James Lauricella, who was suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukemia. 

The Holm family could only praise the hospital for making Catherine’s attendance possible.

“The nurses, the doctors, the people who clean the rooms,” Catherine’s husband, Mark, said. “I’ve never met a nicer bunch of people.”

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