rush university medical center

Life-Changing Diagnosis Leads to Impromptu Wedding at Chicago Hospital

Nurses and doctors helped Shane Gerdes and Darien Monk find the light in a very dark year

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Friday, Dec. 11 is a day Shane Gerdes will never forget.

"[My] head got 'spinny,' and I started seizing on the floor," said Gerdes.

Gerdes had a seizure at work. He was rushed to the hospital and was later informed he has a brain tumor that needs to be removed. In an ironic twist of fate, that coffee warehouse where the seizure happened is the same place that connected he and his fiancé 13 years prior.

"I love her more than anything in the world. She’s so smart," said Gerdes.

The pair got engaged in September, but the coronavirus pandemic put their wedding plans on hold. Then, an unimaginable diagnosis made the future even more unclear, especially because they couldn't be in the hospital together due to coronavirus restrictions.

"He was alone and I was alone. That was super hard. Both having to deal with that alone," said Darien Monk, Gerdes' wife.

Gerdes used his time alone to hatch a plan, leaning on his team of doctors and nurses for support, to create a day that would change their lives forever.

"I woke up to him calling me, and I was half asleep. He’s like, 'will you come down and marry me?' I was like, immediately, I said, yes," said Monk.

Less than 48 hours after he was told about the tumor, Gerdes and Monk were getting married in the very unit where emergency surgery may save his life.

Nurses on the Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit at Rush University Medical Center picked up flowers, cake and decorations. One nurse even called in her husband for a very special task.

"This is my first hospital wedding," said Doug Schlesser, a high school English and theater teacher.

Schlesser officiates weddings for friends, and when his wife called to ask if he'd be up for this task, he had no hesitations.

"One of the reasons why I became on officiant is to be able to help people," said Schlesser. "If we’re not helping other people right now, then we aren’t doing it correctly."

Gerdes and Monk are optimistic about the future. His surgery is planned for Monday. They said when it's safe to do so and when Gerdes is healed, they want to have a reception to celebrate with family and friends.

"I want to fight," said Gerdes.

"He’s my superhero. He can do it," said Monk.

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