The crowd watched as Nelson and Lola Cresente enjoyed their first dance together, as a newly renewed husband and wife. Surrounded by friends, family and their healthcare team at Valir PACE the couple showed what love through adversity looks like.
Just months ago, Lola Cresente thought she would be planning a funeral for her husband Nelson, but instead she planned a vow renewal — celebrating their 28th anniversary.
It seemed impossible. Last fall, Nelson was hospitalized with COVID pneumonia. He refused a ventilator, opting to go home on hospice care.
“The doctor told me I was going to take him home to die,” Lola said.
“We even helped them call a priest,” said Ashley Henson, a nurse practitioner with Valir PACE, a program of all-inclusive care for the elderly. “It was that dire.”
But he refused to give up.
As his PACE provider, Henson made a few home visits to check on Nelson and Lola. The PACE program works in partnership with Medicare and Medicaid to provide at-risk seniors the care they need to stay as healthy as possible and living independently in their community.
It was during one of those visits that something miraculous seemed to have happened.
Lola was explaining to Henson and a nurse from Valir Hospice how a neighbor had stopped by the day before to pray over Nelson, specifically that his lungs would open.
“I listened to his lungs and his hospice nurse listened to his lungs. We looked at each other and were like, ‘We’re hearing air here. Air is moving,’” Henson said.
Within weeks he was moved off of hospice. He started using a portable oxygen machine. And he regained much of his independence.
Now, months later, the couple celebrates a love that they came so close to losing with a special ceremony to renew their vows.
It was a first for PACE, to host an event like this. Henson led the way, knowing it would create a special memory for everyone involved.
“I took it to the team and said they would like to do this and there was just a big cheer that erupted in the room,” Henson said.
“It was Valir that was beside me when he got sick and I couldn’t think of any better place to spend our anniversary than here,” Lola said.
PACE employees created a bouquet, a boutineere and floral decor for the Cresentes, another employee made them a wedding cake. Another member of the team served as the ceremony officiant. It was truly a special day.
Daphne Chapman, an RN with Valir Hospice, was one of the nurses who cared for Nelson when he first returned home. She was also able to attend the ceremony.
“It’s a tremendous improvement. He definitely was doing very poorly,” Chapman said. “It’s wonderful to get to see them renew their vows today. Very special.”
While it isn’t the case for every hospice patient, it’s something that can happen.
“Thinking their loved one is going to pass and then them rebounding and getting to spend more time with family, it’s a wonderful thing,” Chapman said.
Henson even offered an emotional toast at the event, saying how proud she was of the Cresentes for not giving up and battling for Nelson’s health.
“It has been the most inspiring love story in my life to see,” Henson said.
After their first dance, Nelson took a seat to enjoy a Groom’s Steak (instead of cake). A meat lover, steak was one of the things he missed during his battle with COVID pneumonia.
They also had cake and appetizers, provided by Valir PACE’s dietary team.
The Cresentes say they couldn’t have asked for a better celebration.
“We just appreciate it very much,” Nelson said. “For me, this is just unbelievable.”