By Clayton Warren and Monique Binkley Smith, Vitals contributors
Itzel Lopez was planning to marry her college sweetheart, Jonatan Spahn, this August, but those plans were put on hold when Lopez was admitted to Sutter’s Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland for metastatic cancer treatment.
Then, after Lopez spent two difficult months undergoing treatment, the young couple asked if a wedding ceremony at the hospital could be arranged.
Alta Bates Summit staff members worked with Lopez and Spahn to arrange an intimate ceremony in the medical center’s rooftop rehabilitation garden. The June 8 wedding was low-key with the pair exchanging vows in front of a small group including their parents, Lopez’s siblings, and a few nurses, doctors and hospital staff members, plus hospital chaplain Stevie Stennis, with whom the two had become close.
“All the staff members were very helpful coordinating the event and Chaplain Stevie went to the courthouse to sort out our marriage license,” says the bride who wore a long white lace gown and a tulle veil and carried a bouquet of yellow and peach roses.
“We don’t get to see a wedding in the hospital that often, so I felt privileged to help organize Itzel’s special day,” says oncology unit assistant nurse manager Olena Pimentel. “While working with the couple, I got to know them more and was amazed how, while being so young, Itzel and Jonatan remained so pleasant and appreciative despite everything they had to go through. They told me that they always wanted to have a small, intimate ceremony, and at the end of the day that’s exactly what they got.”
“I hadn’t been outside for months and I really wanted to breathe fresh air and have the best wedding day possible,” says Lopez. “It was very special to have our closest relatives attend the wedding and be there with us.”
College Sweethearts and ‘Dreamers’
Lopez and Spahn met while attending Cal State East Bay in Hayward and began dating in 2014. Lopez says they really hit it off after she borrowed his textbook and they discovered they had quite a bit in common.
“Both of us are ‘dreamers’ — also known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients — who were brought to the U.S. as children and have lived and gone to school here most of our lives,” says Lopez. “I was born in Mexico and Jonatan was born in Argentina, so we also bonded thanks to our immigrant roots.”
Spending Time with Loved Ones
Lopez was discharged from Alta Bates Summit in late June and says she’s relishing time with close friends and family and looking forward to spending time outdoors.
“I’m really enjoying the ability to spend time with the people I love and go on some outdoor adventures in the future,” says Lopez.
Lopez continues, “I want to say a huge, massive thank you to the staff members at Alta Bates Summit. I will never, ever forget what they did for us, and I will always be grateful.”