The coronavirus pandemic upended the wedding plans of Miranda Wickham and Enver Candan, as it did for so many couples, yet if it hadn’t been for the virus, Ms. Wickham might not have been there to badger her fiancé to seek the medical treatment that may have saved his life.
And she definitely wouldn’t have ended up with an absolutely one-of-a-kind wedding, either.
Ms. Wickham, 27, is an analyst for the Government Accountability Office, and now works remotely, so in July, when Mr. Candan, 32, developed shortness of breath and unexplainable bruises on his chest and stomach, Ms. Wickham insisted he go to urgent care.
A couple of days later, when test results came back, the news was dire.
“So we get a call from the hematologist saying, ‘It’s acute leukemia. It’s extremely treatable but you need to drop everything and go to the emergency room,’” Ms. Wickham said.
An ambulance transported Mr. Candan, who is a hardware development engineer for I.B.M. in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. He immediately began treatment for acute promyelocytic leukemia. He ultimately spent 33 nights in the hospital, and will continue treatment for seven more months.
“They said, if you got him here two days later, he might not have made it,” she said.
The couple met in 2015, when both were students at the University of Illinois. She was in her senior year, and would go on to receive a master’s degree in international affairs from George Washington University. He was a doctoral student in electrical engineering and had received his undergraduate degree from Istanbul Technical University in Turkey.
She spotted him at a coffee shop during a snowstorm, when just about no one else was out, and approached him in the language of his homeland, as she had spent time in Istanbul the previous year. “It was a magical experience,” he said. “She came and talked to me in Turkish, straight up.”
“In a few months, I would say, I knew she was the one,” Mr. Candan said.
The couple had planned to be married in June, in Izmir, Turkey, which is the groom’s hometown, but canceled because of the pandemic. They rescheduled for August, and then canceled that date, too.
“We were really devastated,” Ms. Wickham said. “His mother had already planned the dinner she was going to make when my parents came to her house.”
After Mr. Candan began undergoing treatment, it became clear that the couple would be lucky to have a wedding with any guests at all, because he had become severely immunocompromised. But they were still eager to marry, and so on Aug. 6, the couple applied for and received an expedited marriage license through New York City’s Project Cupid.
The next day, on Aug. 7, they were married. Though not without the contributions of the hospital staff, who had found an officiant, Sonja Schedler, a recovery-room nurse and a Universal Life minister, among their own ranks.
When Ms. Wickham arrived at the hospital that day, expecting to be married by bureaucratic fiat, her fiancé was nowhere to be found. His roommate, who was to be the couple’s witness and best man, told her that Mr. Candan was showering in preparation for the wedding, which was to begin in 20 minutes in a hospital conference room.
She headed out of the room toward the designated spot. Someone handed her flowers and said they’d been picked that morning out of their own garden. Nurses lined the hallway and were blowing bubbles. The conference room had been transformed, with decorations, flowers, sparkling apple juice and even a wedding cake (a gift from the groom’s hospital roommate).
“And so then we were there in total shock, because we thought we were just signing a form,” Ms. Wickham said. “We didn’t even know them personally, and all of these people had done all this. It was very emotional.”
Though their elaborate, international wedding plans for more than 200 people had evaporated, strangers made their wedding a joyful one, the couple said.
“It was such a happy moment,” Ms. Wickham said. “It was like the best day of our life just two weeks after the worst day of our life. It was more than I ever could have ever asked for.”