UNC Rex staff hold hospital wedding for Harnett County couple


Vicky Abarca Zacatula has seen couples getting married in the hospital in movies and on TV. But celebrating his own marriage to one was not part of his plan.

“I never thought that was going to be my situation,” she said in a phone interview.

Abarca Zacatula was transferred by ambulance to the UNC Rex Hospital Women’s Center on January 29 due to complications from her pregnancy. Due to her medical history with a previous miscarriage, she needed special medical attention, she said.

Unsure of how long she will be staying, she and her fiancé Jason Thedford decided to postpone their February 4 wedding at Lake Johnson.

“I had everything – the venue, the food – ready for our wedding day,” she said. “My family was really looking forward to (the wedding).”

Once Abarca Zacatula was in a more stable condition, her unit’s medical staff began thinking of ways to honor the couple’s special day.

“The doctors, everyone here, said, ‘We’ve got you! ‘” she said, referring to their plan to have the wedding at the hospital. “It’s not something that’s offered all the time.”

Friday afternoon, the same day as their postponed wedding in Lake Johnson, Abarca Zacatula and Thedford tied the knot in the chapel at UNC Rex Hospital.

Jason Thedford (left) and Vicky Abarca Zacatula (right) were due to get married in Lake Johnson on Friday February 4, 2022, but plans changed when she was admitted to hospital a week ago. UNC Rex staff helped the couple make it a special day after all. Drew Cumbee UNC Health

The impromptu celebration was complete with flowers, music, cake, close family and, of course, their rings.

The hospital’s labor and delivery manager, nurse Megan Dunston, an ordained minister, presided over the ceremony.

“I know when someone cares, they make it happen,” the bride said of the team. “It’s a gesture I will never forget.”

Even Abarca Zacatula’s hospital room has been transformed into a “honeymoon suite” with rose petals, sparkling grape juice and water.

A team from the UNC Rex Women’s Center decorated patient Vicky Abarca Zacatula’s room with rose petals to celebrate her wedding day, housed in the hospital’s chapel. UNC Health

Planning and hosting a wedding was a welcome distraction from the daily hustle and bustle of working in a hospital during a pandemic, Dunston said in a statement provided by UNC Health.

“Coming at a time when there is so much sadness and confusion and chaos in healthcare right now was so special,” Dunston said.

The newlyweds, who live in Angier in Harnett County, are expecting a boy. He is due to give birth on April 21.

This story was originally published February 6, 2022 11:33 a.m.

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Laura Brache is a reporter for The News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina, covering the effects of changing demographics on minority communities in the region. She is a multilingual multimedia journalist from North Carolina, born in Massachusetts and raised in the Dominican Republic.


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