It was a very “marry” Christmas on Akron Children’s fifth floor.
Sarah Lewis, 27, and Bill Cramer, 28, chose Christmas morning as the date and their 4-year-old son’s hospital room as the setting for their wedding.
“We have been planning a big, traditional wedding for nearly 6 years and something always would throw us off,” said Sarah. “We realized that when you have three young children, life isn’t going to slow down.”
In many ways, their son’s hospital room was the perfect setting as Akron Children’s pediatric hematology/oncology unit has been their home away from home since Billy was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in November 2013.
With extended family gathered and Billy sitting up in his bed holding his mother’s bouquet, Sarah and Bill exchanged vows under a lighted archway placed by nurses at the entrance to Billy’s room. Sarah’s uncle, David Crisco, a Baptist minister, officiated.
“We feel very honored to be part of this,” said nurse practitioner turned wedding planner Courtney Culbertson. “We see how hard it is for families to be going through something like this and we try to be a support system – a makeshift family on this end.”
Culbertson, pediatric oncologist Dr. Dan Pettee, pediatrics resident Dr. Diane Lui, and oncology fellow Dr. Aditya Sharma, were all dressed in festive Christmas attire for the day, and the 5600 nurses enthusiastically embraced their wedding decor mission – dropping silk petals on the floors and passing out tiny jars of bubbles to guests.
The wedding took on an “It’s a Wonderful Life” flavor when the three angelic children – Billy and his 2-year-old brother Mason and 1-year-old sister Delaney – all rang tiny silver bells after their parents were introduced as “Mr. and Mrs. William Cramer.”
The wedding was a bright morning after a difficult 13 month journey since getting Billy’s diagnosis. A neuroblastoma is a cancer of the neural tissue that most commonly forms in childhood, rarely adults. Billy’s cancer started in the adrenal gland on top of his left kidney and spread to his bones, said pediatric oncologist Dr. John Fargo.
Since his diagnosis, Billy has undergone chemotherapy, surgery, a bone marrow transplant and he is now taking part in a clinical immunotherapy trial that will last a few more months.
“My son is my hero,” said Bill Cramer. “”No matter how hard it is, he always has a smile.”
The great news is Billy is responding well to the treatment and blood markers so far show no signs of cancer.
Bill and Sarah, who live in Mogadore, estimate that they have spent 6 of the past 13 months at Akron Children’s. Sarah typically stays with Billy, while Bill is home with Mason and Delaney.
“Everyone here treats Billy like family,” Sarah said. “This is our extended family.”
And now with their marriage vows complete – exchanged in a hospital room on a sacred day with loved ones gathered round – Sarah and Bill say they feel strong and united for the rest of the journey.