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Nurse grants final wish for mother of the bride

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Published on May 6, 2014

"Ethan and I have been together for a long time and it's something that we've been, of course, wanting to do," said Sarah West, the bride to be. "Just quite honestly being a little lazy about accomplishing a wedding."

Sarah West and Ethan Schowalter-Hay, both of Portland, decided to get married at Salem Hospital in Salem, Oregon on Feb. 1, 2014, for Sarah's mother, Sherri West.

"When her illness really took a turn for the worse, it was the first thought in both of our minds that we've got to do this," said Sarah.

"I knew that they wanted to get married," said Glenn West, Sarah's father. "You are doing this because it's what you want to do right? And they said yes, absolutely it was. They just didn't want mom to not be part of it."

Sherri's nurse, Laura Peterson, heard Sarah talking about not having a dress or flowers.

"She said 'I don't have time to plan all of this and my focus needs to be on my mom,'" said Laura Peterson, RN, oncology nurse at Salem Hospital. "I said, 'Absolutely. I'm back tonight. Let me work on things.'"

"Every time she came in she had more news," said Schowalter-Hay. "She had thought of more things to do to make it really special."

"We said you are going to have the wedding of your dreams," said Peterson. "All you have to do is show up."

Peterson helped organize the wedding in three days.

"All of a sudden they just jumped and became part of this great extended group of people that made a pretty amazing event happen," said Glenn.

A local florist, a bridal shop, and a salon donated flowers, the wedding dress, a photographer, hairstyling and makeup. A harpist also volunteered.

"These people found people to donate things to make it happen. It's just magical," said Glenn.

Some family and friends traveled to Salem from across the country.

"We like simple and low-key, and that's what it was," said Ethan after the ceremony. "But it meant a lot. It had a really good feel in there."

Staff from Salem Hospital's palliative care and social services helped Sherri take part in the wedding.

"This staff is very generous," said Glenn. "This staff has a lot of heart. You know they care, every one of them, without exception. It really has touched us greatly."

"These two have loved each other for a really long time," said Sherri West, Sarah's mother. Having them get it together like this was an extreme surprise."

"It's very beautiful and I feel honored," said Sarah.

"It just makes you feel warm inside. It does," said Peterson.

"She is the superstar behind this, really," said Sarah, about Peterson.

"She appears to be multi-talented, endlessly energetic," said Ethan. "I don't know where the source is."

"It is just awe inspiring to see the power of kindness that has come through in this," said Sarah.

"And just beautiful. It was just beautiful," said Sherri.

"The hospital is going to hold a very dear place in my heart," said Glenn.

"It's not just every girl's dream to have her wedding day be perfect," said Peterson. "It's also the mother of the bride who wants to be there for her daughter and to see that day. I wanted to make it happen for them."

"I can die happy," said Sherri, with a smile. "I can die happy."

(This video was produced in memory of Sherri West.)

* * *

Salem Hospital is part of Salem Health, along with West Valley Hospital, Willamette Health Partners and other affiliated health care organizations offering exceptional care to people in and around Oregon's mid-Willamette Valley. Salem Hospital received the Distinguished Hospital Award for Clinical Excellence™ from Healthgrades in 2014, placing it among the top 5 percent of more than 4,500 hospitals nationwide. Visit us at salemhealth.org; "Like" us on facebook.com/salemhealth; and follow us on Twitter: @salemhealth.

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