A couple have been married at the Countess of Chester Hospital after the community and NHS staff pulled together for their special day.
Former taxi driver Bill Sansby, 67, has been a patient at the Countess for more than six months, with his partner Maggie travelling 74 miles a day, almost every day, from their home in Warrington to be by his side.
It was during one of these visits that Bill stunned his partner of 20 years by proposing, setting off a whirlwind fortnight of planning that finally saw the couple become newlyweds in front of family, friends and ‘dog of honour’ Bailey on the ward where he has grown very close to the nurses who look after him.
Maggie said: “It was very special after so many years of being together and we were absolutely over the moon with everything they did for us. I just expected it to be Bill, me and a few family members by his bed, but to be told they’d booked this room and it would be decorated professionally. It was just wonderful.”
Bill and Maggie first met on the taxi ranks in Warrington in 1984, with Bill’s reputation preceding him as the man to ask for advice when Maggie started driving a cab. They began as colleagues and friends before love blossomed in 1997, although regular night shifts meant many of their first dates were spent having a coffee in one of the few cafes still open at 3am.
Bill was incredibly touched that friends from the taxi rank he hadn’t seen for years came to the wedding, along with several members of his family – including his step-grandson watching via FaceTime from the USA – but it was the presence of border collie cross Alsatian Bailey that made it even more perfect.
Bill said: “Bailey is very special to me. For her to come in and be part of our wedding was just perfect.
“The staff appreciate my dry sense of humour and think the world of me. They also love it when Maggie brings Bailey to visit and I can’t thank everyone enough for everything they did for us.”
Once Bill proposed to Maggie, it was a true team effort to get things ready.
With Bill having been in hospital with a series of complex issues he has lost around eight stone in weight, so Maggie had to guess his size and buy new clothes for him as well as sorting her own dress, the rings and taking Bailey to the dog groomers.
Meanwhile, ward manager Julie Dixon started ringing around for help with catering and decorations.
But that task was made easier as soon as Marks and Spencer Chester food section manager Katie Webb made sure her team got involved.
Katie said: “We jumped at the chance to help. We’ve brought food, a wedding cake and our visual team, who dress the store, have come in as well to decorate the room. It’s amazing for us to get to do this, to have that involvement in our community, and more importantly make it a day to remember for Bill and Maggie.”
Julie added: “Bill has been with us for a long time and he’s such a popular character among staff and other patients. He’s been through a lot with Maggie in recent months so for us to get the chance to help make their big day special was brilliant for all of us. It’s the first time I’ve ever been involved in anything like this and the sheer joy it’s created around the hospital has been fantastic.”
Bill, who went to the Countess for the hospital’s specialism in vascular services, has had a series of other issues during that time which has kept him in Chester but will hopefully be transferred somewhere closer to home when it is possible to do so.