High School Sweethearts Marry After Bride Diagnosed with Stage 4 Cancer, Heart Failure

By Tiffany Meier

Amid the beeping of a life-support machine, Jesse Welsh exchanged wedding vows with his high school sweetheart, who was diagnosed with heart failure and stage 4 cancer.

Welsh paused, took a deep breath, and finished his wedding vows: “So long as we both shall live.”

His bride, Toni Carroll, held his hand and repeated the vows without faltering, despite being hooked to a life-support machine in the ICU at a hospital in Melbourne, Australia, reported the Herald Sun.

Carroll first noticed a lump in her neck when she was pregnant with her second daughter. However, it didn’t seem life-threatening and a few months later she successfully gave birth.

The lump continued to grow, but the diagnosis of gallstones and a cold were non-threatening, according to the Herald Sun.

However, two and a half months after giving birth, everything changed.

“When I came home she just looked dead,” Welsh told the Herald Sun.

Carroll was rushed to the hospital where she was diagnosed with heart failure and stage four Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the body’s immune system, according to the American Cancer Society. Doctors are still not sure about what causes the cancer in the first place, according to Mayo Clinic.

“Toni was referred to The Alfred from another hospital for treatment of rapidly progressive and potentially fatal heart failure,” one of Carroll’s doctors, Intensivist Dashiell Gantner said, reported Alfred Health.

Doctors began treating Carroll for her cancer. However, when the chemotherapy worsened her condition, the young couple had to make a choice.

When her heart was pumping at 20 percent capacity, an infection and sepsis set in, and Carroll could no longer respond, according to the publication.

“I did die,” she told the Sun Herald.

“Her heart stopped, swelled up and they said she had more than five days, less than 10, and then I’d have to make a decision [to turn off life support],” Welsh told the Herald Sun.

The doctors had to decide if they wanted to use “the most extreme form of life support,” an ExdtraCorporeal Membrane Oxygenation machine (ECMO), according to the Sun Herald. It was a choice between death or a slim shot at survival.

“She just kept fighting. They kept saying she was not going to make it, but they just kept pushing her every day, minute by minute,” Welsh said.

One day, Welsh walked into her hospital room, closed the curtains, got down on one knee and proposed.

“I cried. I was so happy,” Carroll told the Herald Sun. “But he took too long.”

The two met in high school and had always wanted to get married, but had to put a hold on their plans when their two daughters came along.

With an impending surgery, the two decided to get married as soon as possible.

“We got married quickly because I was having the heart pump out and, if they take it out and my heart fails, they wouldn’t be able to save me,” Carroll told the Herald Sun.

Two of Carroll’s nurses—Patient Experience Nurse Paul Leonard and ICU Nurse Mary Fox— asked hospital staff to help organize the wedding.

“We sent an email to all ICU staff asking who wanted to get involved, and we got an overwhelming response,” Leonard said, according to Alfred Health.

“Everybody got involved, the team was creative and organized, and we worked together well. Everyone wanted to make the day special for them,” he added.

Despite the ceremony being held in the ICU, the wedding was a success.

“It’s so beautiful, honesty I thought it was going to be small and then it exploded with all this love from everyone, it was perfect, I loved it,” Carroll told Alfred Health.

“I don’t usually wear makeup anyway, so this is a very special day,” she told the Herald Sun.

As for her husband, Welsh said it was the most important day of his life.

“From where we started five weeks ago, I was told I’d only have five to ten days with her, now we are married and I can’t ask for anything more,” he told Alfred Health.