Working is not the optimal way to spend your first wedding anniversary and certainly far from romantic, but a group of nurses at OCH Regional Medical Center got creative to make sure that their coworkers’ first anniversary was one they won’t forget.
Matt and Alison Woods spent their one-year wedding anniversary providing care for their patients at OCH. Matt, a registered nurse in the intensive care unit, and Alison, a registered nurse in labor and delivery, said they didn’t mind spending their special day caring for others.
“It wasn’t ideal, but we were here together so that made it special,” said Alison Woods.
The two met at East Central Community College in 2008. He was in his second year of college and played the saxophone in the band, and she was a Centralette just starting her journey to become a RN. After college, both went to work at the Medical Center and later married on January 24, 2015, a date very special to them as her grandparents celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary on that day.
One year later, they started their milestone anniversary by working their 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. shift in their respective units at the Medical Center.
“I got Matt an omelet from the hospital cafeteria and brought it to him because it was our anniversary. I mentioned it to the nurses on my floor, and that’s when it all got started,” said Alison Woods.
“Your first anniversary is so special, so we wanted to do something nice for them,” said labor and delivery surgery tech Bella Oswalt who has been married for 10 years, the longest of the group. “Your wedding is usually a blur, and most other anniversaries are spent going out to eat or to see a movie, or maybe not doing anything. But you always remember your first anniversary,” said Oswalt.
After checking with the house manager, fellow L&D RN Haley Smith clocked out and headed to Walmart. In 30 minutes, she was back with wedding pictures printed off from Facebook, sparkling water, flameless tealights, a table runner, signs, plastic champagne flutes and plate chargers.
“Walmart was empty because it was during church hours, and we had a very detailed list so we could get back quickly. We were at the wedding, so we added a few personal touches to remind them of their wedding day,” explained Smith.
Oswalt got busy making “flowers” and a “chandelier” out of tulle she had stashed away in her locker.
“Bella is the creative one. She always has a bag of tricks,” said L&D RN Kadie Fancher.
“I knew they were up to something, but they wouldn’t let me look,” explained Alison Woods.
What Alison didn’t know was that her coworkers were transforming the nurses’ breakroom into an “upscale restaurant” called “The Lounge,” complete with decorations and signs directing the bride and groom to their destination. A medical suction bucket acted as a “wine bucket” for the sparkling water and a menu detailed their anniversary dinner which included, cheddar chex mix hot ‘n spicy as the appetizer, pulled pork with cole slaw and “fatteningly fried french cut potatoes” as the main course, and chocolate covered strawberries.
Once the transformation was complete, Alison was led to “The Lounge” where she waited for her husband.
“After I made sure my patients were stable and in good hands with a respiratory therapist and nurse, I went up to Alison’s unit,” said Matt Woods. “I was in utter shock and pleasantly surprised,” he added.
To top off their anniversary date, “At Last” by Etta James, the song they danced to at their reception, was playing in the background, while Fancher, Smith and Oswalt stood by with their phones to capture the moment.
“It was so nice and thoughtful of them. Being so close to my coworkers makes it fun to come to work. I love my work family,” said Alison Woods, jokingly adding that her coworkers went through all the trouble because they actually love Matt more!
“I just try to be nice to everyone,” he said. “This hospital is like family. I spend more time with my coworkers than I do with family,” continued Matt Woods.
Truth be told, the couple is equally loved and recognized regularly by their patients and coworkers.
One patient praised Alison in a satisfaction survey writing, “Alison was with me all morning when I was in labor, and even after her shift was over, she stayed with me so that she could be there to help deliver my son. She was patient and anticipated my needs. She explained everything that was happening and answered mine and my husband’s questions.”
In December, Matt found an extra Christmas tree in the hospital to put in a patient’s room, along with Christmas music, to help cheer the patient up and feel more at home during the holidays.
“He’s a very good nurse. He takes care of me when I’m sick, and he’s more nurturing than I am,” admitted Alison Woods.
The couple didn’t actually eat their anniversary dinner together. Matt took his food back to his unit to be with his patients. But this Valentine’s Day, the couple will have the day off together, and they plan to relax at home with their cockapoo, Millie, go out to eat and to the movies.
“We chose this career because we’re passionate about nursing,” said Alison Woods. “As nurses, we both understand that celebrating holidays with our loved ones is not a guarantee, and that’s okay with us.”