Inseparable Bond Between Grandmother, Granddaughter Leads to Unforgettable Wedding

August 22, 2019

Ilana James-Halemano’s plan to get married in 2021 changed quickly when she learned that her grandmother, Fayette Coney, was admitted to Jefferson Washington Township Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

“Faye,” 69, suffered two strokes this past June — the same month her granddaughter became engaged. While she overcame the strokes, her health declined again a few weeks ago.

“Faye was found passed out on the floor from a fall,” her sister, Rosette Coney, recalled. “Faye slipped into a coma, which lasted two weeks.”

For Ilana, 22, her “best friend’s” ICU stay meant it was necessary to move up her wedding to this past Tuesday, August 20.

Jefferson Health’s New Jersey Event & Community Outreach Manager, Jessica Lucas, helped “get the ball rolling” when she learned of Ilana’s request. Dean Auer, Director of Guest Services, and his team received donations from the following local area businesses to supply everything needed to pull off a “hospital wedding”: Classic Cake Bakery, Dayna’s Party Rentals and Catering and Get Shot by Brian Photography.

Also, local florist Brava Vita Flowers & Gifts provided flower arrangements and the boutonniere for the groom, Antoine Halemano. Hospital Nursing Supervisor Jennifer Debreceni and her daughter, Megan, also helped out by decorating the ground-floor chapel.

As Dean says, “We do amazing things for our patients and their loved ones every day, but being able to do what we did for Ilana and Faye was incredibly special.”

Among those also on hand for the ceremony were Guest Services Coordinators Richard Pestritto, Juliana Vernacchio and Imoni Williams. Imoni facetimed Dean so Faye could hear the wedding ceremony from her hospital bed, while Richard and Juliana escorted family members between the chapel and Faye’s ICU room.

“It was touching,” Imoni said. “An ICU nurse asked Faye if she could open her eyes so she could see the ceremony on an iPad. When Faye heard, ‘You may kiss the bride,’ you could see tears and she was smiling from ear to ear.”

Ilana, who lives in Chester, PA, spent most of her time growing up at her grandparents’ home in Washington Township — coincidentally, right up the street from the hospital.

She is Faye’s only granddaughter, and the bond the two share is unmistakable.

“It means a lot that I could have the wedding here at the hospital,” Ilana said. “This is a new journey for me, and my grandmom being able to at least hear my wedding, in the same building, is something I will never forget.”

Ilana’s family says that while she will still have a formal wedding down the road, they are happy her grandmother was able to witness her special day.

When Ilana visted Faye in her ICU room shortly after the wedding ceremony, she said, “Grandmom, nod if you love me.”

With all the effort it took, Faye nodded back.

Shown at the wedding reception, held in the hospital’s cafeteria are, from left: Juliana Vernacchio, Guest Services Coordinator; Dianne Bottino, Administrative Director of Patient Experience; Tracy James, Ilana’s mother; Ilana James-Halemano; Antoine Halemano; Dean Auer, Director of Guest Services; Jennifer Debreceni, Hospital Nursing Supervisor; and Imoni Williams, Guest Services Coordinator.

Photo courtesy of Brian Bailey/Get Shot by Brian Photography