Of all the moments in our lives, wedding days often rank among the most fondly remembered. And whether the most treasured reminiscences are of the ceremony itself or of the festivities that follow, they’re often memories that last lifetimes. Toni Carroll and Jesse Welsh may have been hoping that their big day proved special, too, when they tied the knot in May 2019.
However, this particular wedding was by no means a typical one. Yes, while Carroll and Welsh did make their vows in a chapel, they were actually in a hospital in Melbourne, Australia, at the time. Carroll was a patient there, you see, after she had received two serious diagnoses in the winter of 2018.
Shockingly, while Carroll had been pregnant with her second child, she had discovered a growth forming on her neck. Then, after giving birth in December 2018, the mom was given awful news that had the potential to curtail her future: she had the cancer Hodgkin’s lymphoma. And that wouldn’t be the end of her ordeal, either.
Sadly, Carroll was also informed that she was suffering from serious heart failure. From there, then, the mom was moved to an intensive care unit (ICU) at a local hospital known as The Alfred. And while a romantic Welsh later popped the question and the two ultimately married, Carroll’s health issues threatened to overshadow their happiness. Following the wedding, you see, the Australian woman was scheduled to have a high-risk operation.
For some, forming a romantic relationship with another can be incredibly tough. Whether it be down to timing or shyness, there are a variety of reasons why a person may appear to be unlucky in love. Welsh and Carroll appeared to have no such problems during their younger years, however, as the two became childhood sweethearts.
Residents of Melbourne, Carroll and Welsh had first gotten together while attending high school. And their relationship thrived, too, with the couple going on to become engaged in 2014. Ultimately, though, their plans to wed were put on hold – and not for the last time, either.
After all, when Carroll discovered that she was pregnant with her and Welsh’s first baby, the couple had to reconsider how they would spend the money they had put aside. And even after Carroll gave birth to a little girl named Amelia, the proud parents couldn’t exactly squirrel away much cash for their impending nuptials.
In 2018, you see, Carroll and Welsh found out that they were expecting again. “Toni fell pregnant, so we spent all our money on bottles, formulas [and] so forth,” Welsh told the Australian TV show Sunrise in June 2019. “[And] when the second one came along, we were just like, ‘Well, there goes the dream for the wedding again.’”
However, during this period, Carroll noticed a growth on her neck – something that naturally worried her. And while she still went on to deliver baby Madisyn in December 2018, any joy that she and Welsh may have had over the birth could have given way to apprehension about the future.
Following Madisyn’s arrival, you see, Carroll was not only told that she had Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but she was also diagnosed with serious heart failure. During what was meant to be one of the happiest periods of her life, then, the mom of two’s world was turned upside down.
Hodgkin’s lymphoma’s history as a medical phenomenon can be traced back to 1832, when British doctor Thomas Hodgkin reported on a number of intriguing cases at Guy’s Hospital in London, England. The seven patients concerned, he explained, all had swollen lymph nodes – suggesting, perhaps, that their respective ailments were at least similar if not completely the same. The physician’s work saw publication, too, in a journal by the Medical and Chirurgical Society of London.
However, Hodgkin’s research wasn’t recognized to any extent within the medical community until 1865. Some nine years prior, a man named Samuel Wilks had studied what appeared to be the same conditions and had compiled his own report. Once Wilks discovered that he wasn’t the first to make such observations, though, he released another paper that made reference to “Hodgkin’s disease.”
Then, in the years that followed, doctors started to learn more about what would become known as Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It turned out, for example, that this particular type of cancer could be effectively combated with radiotherapy. And today patients are treated in the same manner to fight the disease – although chemotherapy is also an option.
Carroll was therefore subjected to bouts of chemotherapy to help ward off her cancer; the heart failure she was experiencing was arguably an even more serious concern, however. Yet while the cause of her cardiac condition was somewhat of a mystery, scientists have pinpointed particular risk factors that may contribute to a loss of function in the heart.
The Mayo Clinic website explains, for example, “Heart failure, sometimes known as congestive heart failure, occurs when your heart muscle doesn’t pump blood as well as it should. Certain conditions, such as narrowed arteries in your heart or high blood pressure, gradually leave your heart too weak or stiff to fill and pump efficiently.”
Nonetheless, the problem can be managed. “Not all conditions that lead to heart failure can be reversed, but treatments can improve the signs and symptoms of heart failure and help you live longer,” the Mayo Clinic has explained. “Lifestyle changes – such as exercising, reducing sodium in your diet, managing stress and losing weight – can improve your quality of life.”
But Carroll was already in the throes of the condition, with her grave diagnoses leading her to be moved to The Alfred hospital in Melbourne. The facility specializes in the care of heart and cancer patients, among others, and it takes its name from 19th-century British royal Prince Alfred.
In fact, Alfred was visiting Australia in 1868 when he had his own brush with death. A man named Henry James O’Farrell shot the prince at an event in Sydney, seriously injuring him. Fortunately, O’Farrell was prevented from targeting the royal a second time, and he ended up being tried and hanged. Then, after Alfred had made a recovery, two hospitals were named after him in tribute – including, of course, the Melbourne facility.
And after Carroll became a patient at The Alfred, her heart problem was a cause for real concern – not least because her condition appeared to be worsening. “Toni was referred to The Alfred from another hospital for treatment of rapidly progressive and potentially fatal heart failure,” Dr. Dashiell Gantner explained to the facility’s website in June 2019.
Given the severity of the situation, Carroll was therefore ultimately placed into an induced coma by her doctors at The Alfred. The mom was also hooked up to a life-support machine that aimed to keep her vital functions going, as Gantner would explain.
“Toni has spent a period of time on an ECMO machine,” Gantner told The Alfred’s website, referring to a device that serves to ease pressure on the lungs and heart. “More recently, [she’s] been treated with a type of heart pump.” And at one point during Carroll’s treatment, Welsh had been informed that his partner only had days to live.
Fortunately, Carroll continued to cling on, although she needed an important operation on her heart. And after doctors had warned the mom’s family that she may not make it through the surgery, Welsh made a decision. Yes, yet again he chose to ask his girlfriend if she wanted to marry him – hoping, perhaps, that this time the couple would go through with it.
Just a few days before her heart procedure in May 2019, then, Carroll accepted Welsh’s latest proposal. That left employees at The Alfred to organize a ceremony at rather short notice. And nurse Paul Leonard – who was one of those acting as a “wedding planner” – went on to reveal the lengths to which staff members had gone to make the couple’s big day a special one.
“Toni and Jesse expressed a desire to get married,” Leonard explains in a video that was uploaded to The Alfred’s YouTube channel in June 2019. “We sent out an email to all of the ICU staff [asking] who wanted to be involved. And we got quite an overwhelming response, so we’ve got people baking cakes, people wanting to help get the room ready [and] people wanting to decorate.”
But even though Carroll’s condition meant she couldn’t leave her hospital bed, that wouldn’t prove to be a problem. Instead of walking down the aisle, the bride-to-be was set to be wheeled into the facility’s chapel, where Welsh and her family were waiting. And ahead of the ceremony, Leonard reflected on how the Australian woman had approached the occasion.
“[Carroll has] been so excited to be planning a wedding – just like any other bride would be excited to be planning a wedding,” Leonard explains in the YouTube video. “And yet we know she’s doing it from a hospital bed [while] critically ill.” Naturally, then, plans needed to be put in place to accommodate Carroll’s health issues.
And ICU nurse Jayne Sheldrake would offer some insight into the process. Given Carroll’s condition at the time, the staff needed to prepare for any sudden changes that could affect the ceremony – meaning, in Sheldrake’s words, “there [were] quite a lot of logistics involved.”
Sheldrake added in the hospital’s YouTube video. “[We had a] plan B if something changed and we needed to come back or stop. Everybody got involved, [and] the team was really creative and organized. We just worked together well, and everybody wanted to just make the day special for [Carroll and Welsh].”
Incredibly, 150 people at The Alfred helped put the wedding together for the couple in just three days. Then, with everything in place, Carroll and Welsh finally tied the knot in front of their family and friends. And, touchingly, the patient and mom of two would reveal how she had been overwhelmed by the kindness of all involved.
“It’s just so beautiful,” Carroll says in The Alfred’s YouTube video. “Honestly, I was going for something small, and then it just exploded with all this love from everyone. It was perfect.” Her new husband reflected on their big day at the hospital, too, revealing in the process just how much he had been affected by the occasion.
“I just couldn’t wait to see [Carroll] in her dress,” Welsh recalls in the clip. “It was probably the most important day of my life. From where we started about five weeks ago, I was told I’d only have about five to ten days with her. Now we’re married, and I can’t ask for anything more.”
Gantner appeared to be impressed by the event, too, as in The Alfred’s video he is heard describing the wedding as a “spectacular” experience. Carroll had one more thing to say on the matter, though, and it speaks volumes about her state of mind after tying the knot.
“[I’m] so happy, because it’s all I want,” Carroll adds. “I’m happy because now I’m [Welsh’s] wife.” And The Alfred’s video certainly made a splash online, earning more than 10,000 views to date on YouTube. The clip was also shared on the hospital’s Facebook page, where it received a similarly enthusiastic response.
Yes, since being uploaded to the social media site, the video has earned over 1,000 likes and more than 200 shares. The touching footage also garnered over 140 comments, with several people choosing to offer their support to the happy couple.
“Thank you for sharing your special day, Toni and Jesse,” wrote one Facebook user in the comments section. “The Alfred ICU never ceases to amaze [me] – always pushing the boundaries in so many ways to achieve what may seem impossible.” The praise for the hospital didn’t end there, either.
Indeed, another individual chose to hail everyone involved in Carroll and Welsh’s big day. “What a beautiful family,” the person wrote. “Congratulations, Toni and Jesse. Huge thanks to The Alfred for making it happen. That is what I call incredible patient-centered care.” However, of all the other comments, one arguably stood out for its poignancy.
“God bless you both,” another social media user wrote. “The Alfred… what a wonderful group of people you are. Treasure this in your hearts, and understand and be honored that it is people like you who make this place a better world. The smallest act of kindness has the maximum of impact. Well done!”
But Carroll and Welsh couldn’t bask in the glow of being newly married for long, as the bride’s health took priority. Carroll’s heart surgery therefore took place not long after the wedding – and despite the initial fears that she may not survive the procedure, the mom thankfully came through it in the end.
Then, just days after the operation, Carroll was scheduled to finally leave The Alfred’s ICU. That wasn’t the only positive news on offer, either, as doctors at the facility were cautiously optimistic that the patient would finally return home later in the year. And, unsurprisingly, that possibility was music to the ears of her husband.
According to Welsh, Carroll was desperate to resume her life outside The Alfred. “She feels like she has missed out on a lot, but [our daughters] know who she is,” he told Sunrise. “She’s very strong. Toni said [that] she just can’t wait to get back home, sit down and watch Netflix and get back to normal life.”