SEATTLE -- Seattle Children’s Hospital has cared for sick and injured children in a many different ways, but hospital staff recently helped the family of a 9-year-old girl fighting leukemia in an especially unique way – by giving them a wedding.
Miranda Olivera was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia one year ago after she became mysteriously ill.
“You just feel numb,” her mother Alejandra said. “You’re trying to process it, but you don’t believe it. I remember doctors telling me that she was very sick and I needed to get my family there as soon as possible because they didn’t know if she’d make it through the night.”
Miranda did survive that night and many more. The family moved from Kennewick, Wash. to Seattle and for six months she underwent chemotherapy while relearning how to move, talk and eat on her own.
While Miranda handled her therapy well, she was disappointed about one thing – her parents’ wedding was put on hold. Miranda’s father Saul had proposed to Alejandra the year before, and they had been planning a wedding for August 2013. But when Miranda was diagnosed, the planning came to a halt. Alejandra returned her dress, canceled the church reservation and focused on caring for her daughter.
In April of this year, doctors told the family Miranda’s cancer was in remission and they could return home, and wedding plans resumed.
But during the summer doctors discovered Miranda’s cancer was back. Again, the wedding was delayed as Miranda prepared for another round of treatment.
“It was very hard, but we knew that we had done it before and we could get through it again,” Alejandra said. “We didn’t think twice about the wedding after that.”
But when Miranda’s parents learned their daughter would need a stem cell transplant – in which the outcome was uncertain – they decided it was time to become husband and wife.
“We’ve learned not to put things off because there is no guarantee of what the future will hold,” Alejandra said. “She is doing well and so we wanted to do it now, when she can enjoy it and be a part of the ceremony.”
Alejandra and Saul were going to have a simple courthouse ceremony, but staff at Seattle Children’s Hospital had a different idea. They offered to throw the family a beautiful wedding ceremony and reception, at no cost.
“We can’t control a lot of what’s going to happen medically, but we can bring some sort of joy and happiness into these families’ lives,” said Ashlei Brooks, a social worker at Children’s.
With just 10 days to plan, hospital staff got to work immediately, reaching out to the local community for donated services and goods. Every aspect of the wedding – the cake, dress, catering, photographer and rings – were donated by local businesses.
Miranda had a major hand in the planning, insisting on a pink cake and a chocolate fountain.
“Miranda was ear-to-ear with grins the whole time,” Brooks said. “To see how happy she was, I knew we’d done the right thing.”
On Oct. 22 the big day arrived, and Miranda was able to leave the hospital for the first time since July. The family celebrated in an intimate ceremony and reception with the Seattle Children’s staff.
“It’s amazing that they cared enough to do this for our whole family,” Alejandra said. “It’s been an emotional rollercoaster but they’ve been here for every up and down. They are family to us.”
Alejandra said her daughter was giddy all day as she put on her dress and played with makeup.
“It was the most amazing day,” Alejandra said. “We couldn’t have asked for anything more. Miranda was so happy to be there and to be a part of the celebration.”
As the family prepares for Miranda’s transplant this week, they want to share their story to offer others some hope.
“No matter what people say, or how dark it looks, always hang on,” Alejandra said. “Miranda is living proof that there are miracles. She has proven that if you just take one day at a time, there is always a chance that it can get better.”