Couple Marries in NICU So Their Baby, Once Given 0 Percent Survival Rate, Can Witness Wedding
A Utah couple have tied the knot in a unique wedding venue — the neonatal intensive care unit of the hospital, where their baby has been since she was born nearly a year ago.
Shawn Donovan and Vilayvone Thipsouvan of Salt Lake City knew they wanted their kids present when they got married, so they chose the NICU, surrounded by friends, family and their two daughters.
"Having the option to have it in the hospital seemed like a better option than a courthouse," Donovan said.
He told InsideEdition.com that he and his wife have been talking about getting married for the past two years, but between working full-time jobs, caring for their 2-year-old daughter, and never leaving the bedside of their infant, they never found a moment to exchange vows.
Finally, with the help of the hospital chaplain, they were married beside baby Zariah's hospital bed among 20 members of their friends, family, and hospital staff who have provided emotional support to the couple since their baby was born more than 3 months premature.
The wedding came a week before Donovan moved to Ohio with baby Zariah in search of better treatment for her conditions, leaving his new wife and 2-year-old Raven behind on the other side of the country.
"It was day and night," Donovan said about Zariah's improvement since she was moved to Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus. "She's actually smiling and happy."
Donovan said their baby girl, who was diagnosed with bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) was given a 0 percent chance of survival earlier this summer, but their odds since transferring hospitals has skyrocketed to a 96 percent chance.
In recent videos posted to their Facebook page, ZariahStrong, the girl who turns 1 in September can be seen playing with toys and sucking her fingers, a miraculous transformation from just weeks ago when she was medically paralyzed.
In fact, Donovan said it's been "very up and down" since Zariah was born after just 24 weeks of gestation. The average term of pregnancy for a woman is 40 weeks.
When Thipsouvan prematurely went into labor, they were turned away from a hospital because their facility didn't have a NICU.
The second hospital, Donovan said, didn't consider babies viable until they reach 24 weeks.
"My wife looked at me and started crying," Donovan recalled. "She said, 'Don't let him kill my baby. That's not an option.'"
So they were airlifted to the University of Utah, where surprisingly, Zariah did better than anyone expected after she was born.
But since that moment, little Zariah's life has been spent in the hospital where she's fought off one problem after another.
From open heart surgery to a collapsed lung and three bouts of pneumonia, baby Zariah has gone through more in 11-months than most people do in their entire lives.
In fact, at their previous facility, doctors gave Zariah a devastating 0 percent chance of survival.
According to Donovan, doctors said, "this isn't a way for a child to live. We're going to pull the plug. If she doesn't make it, she doesn't make it."
But Zariah miraculously pulled through.
Doctors at Nationwide Children's Hospital even estimate that in three years, Zariah will walk out of their facility a healthy toddler.
But for now, Donovan said baby Zariah is making do nearly 1,500 miles away from her mom and older sister, who asks every night, "Are we going to see daddy?"