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Burn victim gets relief with Ohio hospital wedding

AKRON, Ohio (AP) — The first wedding attempt was in November. Jennifer Johnson and Jimmie Smith had planned some simple nuptials but ended up canceling because she needed a hysterectomy.

Burn-Victim-Wedding Sidd

In this photo taken Feb. 26, 2013, hospital staff escort burn victim Jennifer Johnson, center, to the hospital chapel for her wedding to Jimmie Smith at Akron Children's Hospital in Akron, Ohio. Johnson received second and third degree burns after a cooking accident. (AP Photo/Akron Beacon Journal, Mike Cardew)

The second attempt was scheduled for Feb. 25, but five days before they were to exchange their vows, a grease fire landed Johnson in the hospital with second and third degree burns on her left hand.

The third time was the proverbial charm.

Tired of things getting in the way, the Akron couple said "I do" before 40 friends and family squeezed into the chapel at Akron Children's Hospital.

"Do you see how many obstacles keep getting thrown in the way?" Johnson said when asked why she didn't want to wait for her discharge. "Besides, we've both recently been baptized and we live together. We don't want to live in sin anymore."

Hospitals have been known to host weddings before, but it's a pretty rare occurrence at a children's hospital. The Akron center is one of only two burn centers in the country that treat both adults and children.

Spokeswoman Laurie Schueler said staff do remember a couple of instances where parents wanted to tie the knot by a sick child's bedside.

But it was a first for the Rev. Russell Burden, who said he's officiated in a church before but not during his nine-year tenure as the hospital's chaplain.

Before the brief ceremony, the groom paced around the room waiting for his bride-to-be.

"I'm as nervous as I can get," said Smith, 32. "I wonder if they're on their way?"

A few minutes later, two hospital staffers wheeled Johnson, 33, to the door of the chapel. She walked down the imaginary aisle, a nurse in tow pushing the IV unit attached to Johnson's leg.

Guests sang "do, do, da-do" to the melody of Here Comes the Bride. Afterward, they cheered and rang small finger-sized wedding bells and shouted, "Welcome to the family."

Schueler said what happened to Johnson is one of the most common reasons people end up at the Children's burn unit.

Johnson was frying cheese sticks in a shallow fry pan a week ago when the grease caught fire. Her first instinct was to carry the pan outside, but the draft from the door caused the fire to flare, burning her.

While Smith was visiting Johnson in her hospital room, the pair were lamenting their bad luck in trying to get to the altar when a nurse mentioned the hospital had a chapel.

"We looked at each other and smiled," Johnson said.

The bride wore a red sleeveless dress and carried a bouquet of red roses and white carnations. Her hair was covered by the white veil that went with her wedding gown.

They didn't attempt to put the wedding gown on, maid of honor Andrea Milhoan said, because it would have taken a long time and interfered with IV tubes and monitoring wires.

But nothing interfered with the most important accessory of the day. While Johnson's left hand remains wrapped in gauze up to her elbow, her uninjured right hand now sports a sparkling diamond wedding ring.

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