When Rubia Ferreira and Tyler Campbell exchanged vows on Valentine’s Day this year, their most important guest may not have even been awake to witness the special moment. That’s because the couple got married in the NICU at the University of Alabama at Birmingham hospital so their baby daughter Kaelin Maria, could be in attendance.
“We kind of really didn’t decide to do it, we just happened to see a Facebook video [of another couple getting married at a hospital],” Campbell, 24, tells The Knot. “We asked the nurse liaison [Sandra Milstead] if it was possible—we just asked and she coordinated everything, from the wedding cake to the chaplain. This was two weeks before Valentine’s Day.”
Kaelin was born in November 2017 months ahead of her due date via an emergency caesarian section. Ferreira, 42, was just 24 weeks pregnant when she began having severe abdominal pains while the couple was visiting Campbell’s family in Alabama. She was rushed to the UAB hospital and was diagnosed with HELLP syndrome, a life-threatening pregnancy complication often considered to be a variant of pre-eclampsia.
The C-section saved both her and Kaelin’s lives, but it also meant that the couple’s premie daughter would need to stay in the hospital’s Regional Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for observation.
“Rubia had a surgery when she was 12 weeks pregnant to remove a cyst,” Campbell explains, noting that when Ferreira had abdominal pains in November, the couple thought the pain might be related to the previous surgery. “That was pretty scary too.”
In the weeks that followed, Ferreira and Campbell grateful for UAB’s help and recovering from the trauma of a scary birth, decided that they needed to rethink their initial wedding plans, which involved getting married closer to Christmas in Okinawa, Japan, where the pair had first met when Campbell was stationed there as a combat engineer in the Marines.
So on February 14, 2018, Ferreira and Campbell were married in the NICU right next to Kaelin’s crib, with the entire NICU staff included in the festivities. Ferreira’s friends from the Ronald McDonald house were also in attendance. Kaelin’s neonatologist, Waldemar Carlo, MD, director of UAB’s Division of Neonatology, walked Ferreira down the makeshift aisle (aka the hospital hallway), and the couple enjoyed a wedding cake and other refreshments supplied by university catering.
“We had never had a wedding of this size and scale in the RNICU, but everyone was willing to do whatever it would take to make it a reality,” Milstead, RN, BSN, family nurse liaison in UAB’s Women and Infants Center, told The Knot in a statement. “So many people at UAB had formed relationships with Tyler and Rubia, and we all wanted to make sure that, although taking place in a hospital, this was the wedding of their dreams. That’s what they deserved.”
“Seeing her walk down the aisle [was the most memorable moment],” Campbell says. “It was like, okay, I’m not going to get the traditional wedding, but this was so meaningful. Seeing Kaelin’s doctor walk Rubia down the hallway was amazing.”
Ferreira tells The Knot that her favorite part of their big day was being able to share it with their newborn daughter.
“Being in Kaelin’s room was so emotional, and I cried all through it. But she was so cute,” she says. Ferreira even made Kaelin a tiny wedding dress.
“We have one picture of the whole staff and me and Rubia and that’s what I’d want to show [Kaelin],” Campbell says. “I want to show her how many people actually cared about her, and cared about her mom and me.”
Since being born in November, Kaelin’s condition has worsened. She has developed Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), which has caused her to have severe pulmonary hypertension. Those interested in helping can donate to the family’s GoFundMe campaign here.