Woman marries love of her life at Sunderland Royal Hospital just weeks before losing brave fight with heart condition

A woman who was able to marry the love of her life before she lost her brave fight with a heart condition has thanked the hospital staff who made it happen.

After almost two decades together, Justine and Cheryl Dunwoodie were devastated when they had to cancel their wedding just two days before the big day.

Cheryl’s hereditary heart condition, Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, had worsened, causing fluid to build-up on her lungs and stomach.

Justine, 46, from Jarrow, said: “Cheryl had been in and out of hospital since October 2017.

Justine Dunwoodie and wife Cheryl Dunwoodie were able to marry at Sunderland Royal Hospital.

“She had heart failure and needed a heart transplant but her kidneys had started to fail because of her heart meaning that she was too weak to have it.

“We had our wedding planned for August 2018 but two days before we were due to get married Cheryl had to be rushed to hospital and we had to cancel the wedding.

“So I had said that if she makes it through that bad turn that we would just get married.”

Unfortunately Cheryl, 44, didn’t make it through the bad turn and she died on October 8, 2018.

Justine Dunwoodie and wife Cheryl Dunwoodie on their wedding day at Sunderland Royal Hospital.

Cheryl – whose maiden name was McCullough – was able to marry the love of her life after staff at Sunderland Royal Hospital arranged for the pair to tie the knot just weeks before her tragic death.

After speaking to staff on the ward Justine and the team were able to arrange for the pair to wed in hospital.

The team asked the Registrar’s office to fast track the paperwork and also local businesses to see if they could help them make it the best day they could.

They organised flowers, decorated the room, arranged food for a reception and bought a wedding cake.

Justine Dunwoodie returned to Sunderland Royal Hospital to thank staff for organising her wedding to late wife Cheryl Dunwoodie a year on from their special day.

Justine, a former army mechanic, continued: “The team had organised everything within 30 hours of me speaking to them – they were absolutely brilliant.

“We got married on Ward B28 in the side room Cheryl was in.

“The team decorated it to make it as nice as possible and the ward staff attended the wedding and made Cheryl feel so special all day.

“It was a really nice day, the family came to the ward and we even had our niece and nephew as bridesmaid and best man.

Cheryl and Justine Dunwoodie.

“It was not how we had planned it, but in the circumstances it meant that at least we managed to get married.”

Cheryl’s funeral was held in October 2018 and a collection raised around £800 or both Macmillan and the Sunderland Cancer Patient Support Service staff.

Cheryl, who is mum to Liam McCullough, 28, was known for her caring and bubbly personality.

Justine said: “Throughout it all she still laughed and joked in hospital no matter what was going on.”

Debra Spraggon, Cancer Patient Support Service Manager, said: “We were absolutely honoured to be asked to help arrange a wedding for Justine and Cheryl and enable them to spend the time they had left together as a married couple.

“It was a beautiful service and reception and we have to thank the Registry Office and local businesses who supported us in turning everything around so quickly.

Justine Dunwoodie (right) thanks Cancer Patient Support Manager Debra Spraggon who organised the hospital wedding ceremony.

“Our hearts go out to Justine and to Cheryl’s friends and family for their loss, but it is very humbling to be able to create such precious memories for our patients and their loved ones.”

Justine Dunwoodie and wife Cheryl Dunwoodie's wedding cake.
Justine Dunwoodie (right) thanks Cancer Patient Support Manager Debra Spraggon who organised the hospital wedding ceremony.