Elderly Couple Gets Married at Alexandra Hospital Amid Restrictions For COVID-19, Stroke
"With stroke and in Covid-19, until death do us part.”
“For better, for worse, with stroke and in Covid-19, until death do us part.”
One elderly couple have showed us that love transcends age and boundaries. Even in the time of the coronavirus and being engaged in a long-distance relationship, their commitment to each other stands strong.
The pair—Liong May Swan, a Singapore Citizen and Tom Iljas, a Swedish National—held their solemnisation ceremony on 28 March 2020. Except that… things did not pan out according to what they had initially planned: a restaurant ceremony.
With social distancing and precautionary measures implemented due to COVID-19, Tom and May had to give up on their “dream wedding”. They cancelled the ceremony scheduled at Dempsey Hill and decided to hold a family event at home instead.
Unfortunately, even that reality did not materialise for the pair, who intended to move to Sweden to spend the rest of their lives together after registering their marriage on 28 March 2020.
Unexpected Stroke Episode
78-year-old May, who is also a local fiction writer, suffered a stroke on 16 March—a week prior to her planned wedding with Tom. As a result, she had to be warded at the hospital.
On 25 May, May was transferred to Alexandra Hospital’s Specialised Rehabilitation Ward 3 to undergo physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy.
It was revealed that Tom took notice of May’s deteriorating health when he was in Singapore. After their solemnisation ceremony, he planned to bring her to Sweden so he could be “by her side to care for her instead of letting her live on her own.”
And so, the ceremony went ahead as planned—even if that means having to change the venue once more: at the bedside of Alexandra Hospital.
This would not have been possible if not for an Advanced Practice Nurse, Sister Wendy Yue, who leads the specialised rehabilitation ward. She had gathered the hospital’s Operations and Communications teams after she “first heard of the patient’s predicament”.
“This is the first time that a ceremony like this will be held from inside a clinic,” according to Alexandra Hospital.
Elderly Couple Gets Married: A simple and Dignified Ceremony
The hospital was only given a 36 hours “turn around” to make the necessary preparations, which included yellow flowers—May’s favourite colour—and a dedicated space for the solemnisation on the morning of 28 March 2020.
It was described as “a simple, dignified ceremony respecting the precautionary measures of Covid-19”. Two of the adjacent clinics were re-opened and social distancing measures of one metre’s apart and the “no more than 10 pax rule” were also observed.
The wedding solemnisation of Tom and May is yet another testament to the dedication and efficiency of Singapore’s healthcare system and heroes.
The RoM ceremony was said to be presided by Dr Daniel Lee Kok-Pheng. Representatives from Alexandra Hospital (AH) such as the Chief Nurse and Lead nurse of the specialised rehabilitation ward and physiotherapist of AH also graced the wedding.
Walking Down Memory Lane
Both Tom and May were said to be widowed in the early parts of their lives and experienced years of loneliness for two decades.
While some–if not many—would have given up entertaining the possibility of finding a new love or companion, the couple crossed paths and found each other 10 years ago.
Their first encounter was through an online community group that connected people with shared interests, which included discussion of a wide range of socio-political topics.
With all long-distance relationships, a lot of commitment is required from both parties. Tom and May had “shuttled between the two countries to visit each other” and Tom would make trips to see May which stretched “over indirect, long-haul, 13-hour flights between Sweden and Singapore”.
The couple’s experience thus far and them who “believed in sharing the message of hope”, amid the trying times had inspired the staff of Alexandra Hospital.
“This takes courage. We are very inspired. So we want to help them,” said APN Wendy Yue of Alexandra Hospital.
Congratulations to the couple!