Patrick Morris kisses the hand of his new wife, Annie Wilhite, after a wedding ceremony at the VCU Medical Center chapel

Trauma patient marries at hospital chapel

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Symbolically characteristic of good luck and good fortune, St. Patrick’s Day was full of both for Patrick Morris.

On Feb. 20, Morris was knocked off his motorcycle in an accident that left him with fractured ribs, a broken pelvis, a fractured sternum and an amputated leg. Still, he was optimistic and celebratory as he was wheeled into the VCU Medical Center chapel on Thursday to wed Annie Wilhite in a small ceremony that hospital staff helped the couple coordinate.

Originally scheduled to be held outdoors in May on the property of Wilhite’s parents, the ceremony was brief but buoyant, with those family and friends in attendance crying tears of joy and gratitude. Morris wore a blue, long-sleeved shirt, with a cat-adorned quilt over his bottom half. The bride wore a traditional, strapless white gown and had a shamrock painted on her wedding finger to complement her ring and the day.

 I told him he could lose all four limbs and that would be OK.

The couple said they are looking forward to life together and the groom’s continued healing.

“I got a call from a social worker at [VCU Health] about his accident and the only thing that brought me solace was that they said he was alert and asking for me,” Wilhite said. “He was saying how he couldn’t wait to marry me. I told him he could lose all four limbs and that would be OK.”

Morris was taken to the VCU Medical Center critical care unit still conscious, but in grave condition after the accident on Route 5 in Charles City. His mother, Sharon Morris, has been at the hospital with him each day since the accident, and said VCU Health staff members have been extremely helpful.

“We’ve had some really amazing nurses. A lot of the [Surgical Trauma Intensive Care Unit] staff were great,” she said. “The nurses went above and beyond with keeping him comfortable and informing us of what we can expect.”

Debra Nelson, surgery trauma nurse manager, said when she initially heard that the couple planned to get married in a hospital waiting room, she wanted to make it better for them. In addition to staging the wedding in the chapel, she and her staff helped arrange for the reception to be held in the Day Room of the Gumenick Suites at VCU Medical Center.

“It’s wonderful for us to be able to celebrate life and moving forward and that’s what they’re doing,” she said. “It’s a joyous occasion and we don’t always get to celebrate joyous occasions.”

Morris, who worked at the Newport News Shipbuilding, said he is looking forward to leaving the hospital and beginning rehabilitation. He does not remember anything about the accident – and his focus is on the future.

“I’m looking forward to being able to move around again, and just getting back to a somewhat normal life,” he said.


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