OREM, Utah — Although Chelsea Mueller and Jeff Bradley have been a couple since they were 14 years old, they’d procrastinated tying the knot. They had a wedding planned twice, but in both cases, things were upended.
Their original wedding was planned for early 2020, but when the COVID-19 pandemic began, they delayed their date and rescheduled their civil nuptials for July 2022.
That was until Mueller went into pre-term labor on May 27.
“We've always felt married. We didn't need a piece of paper. But when my water broke, we really decided we really have to do this,” Mueller explained. “I guess our daughter decided to just really whip us into shape and she decided to come early, and so we decided to get married right there in the hospital.”
There was no time to waste. It was important to the couple to legally become a family before their daughter was born — that had always been part of the plan.
So, the couple asked the staff at MountainStar Healthcare’s Timpanogos Regional Hospital if they could arrange to get married at the facility. What the couple thought would be a quick bedside ceremony on May 29 turned into so much more.
“The labor and delivery nurses transformed a [hospital] classroom into a wedding chapel with some decorations that they pulled together, and then our kitchen staff got a cake and some sparkling cider,” said Jodi Bushdiecker, the lead chaplain at Timpanogos Regional Hospital, who officiated the hospital ceremony. “Even after such a crazy two years, our staff is incredibly dedicated to their jobs. Many of them feel called to serve in health care and we have an ethic of serving the individual needs of each patient and family member — really valuing the intrinsic worth of every human being that comes into our hospital.”
The team of healthcare professionals planned a meaningful wedding ceremony to the patient’s care plan, all while keeping within patient safety and hospital policies and protocols, of course. This included making wedding decorations, as well as playing wedding music that the bride-to-be could walk down the aisle to (after being taken to the room via wheelchair).
“The nurses here really turned it into a whole event,” Mueller said. “I was not expecting that. I was just shocked that they were able to pull something off and actually make it really cute.”
Loved ones who could not join the ceremony in person were there virtually, thanks to nurses who were willing to FaceTime with them during the event.
Three days later on June 1, the newlyweds welcomed their daughter Rheya to their little family.
“It's very, you know, emotional,” Bradley told FOX 13 News. “I keep telling everybody she broke me from the moment she came out. I was just broken emotionally.”
The parents say Rheya’s birth is especially meaningful because she is a “rainbow baby.” In 2018, the couple lost their first child due to a miscarriage at 17 weeks.
“We’ve really been hoping for her for so long, and just the fact that she made it, she is here, is amazing,” Mueller said.
Because Rheya was born several weeks premature, the five-pound one-ounce baby girl remains in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit, getting stronger every day. The new parents enjoy using the hospital’s live stream of her crib to watch her 24/7 until she gets the all-clear to go home.
“We just feel that even though she's little, she's going to move mountains,” Mueller said.
“I can’t explain how much it means to me,” Bradley added about becoming a father.
Both mom and dad say Timpanogos Regional Hospital will undoubtedly hold a special place in their hearts — a place that is responsible for two of their most cherished memories: their wedding and the birth of their sweet daughter.
“Our lives are going to be touched forever,” Mueller continued. “The way that everything happened, it was just so beautiful.”
“It's been nothing but greatness from everybody that we've met here,” Bradley added. “We literally felt like family.”