Wedding Bells Ring at Saint Thomas as Groom Awaits Donor Heart

As Kristina Likens and James Summers exchanged vows in the Saint Thomas West Hospital chapel last Friday, Dr. Matthew DeShazo of Saint Thomas Heart played a melody on the piano. Just twenty minutes earlier, Dr. DeShazo performed a heart catherization procedure on James, who has a history of heart problems and is temporarily living in a hospital room at Saint Thomas West while he awaits a donor heart.

The bride wore jeans and a blue t-shirt; the groom was dressed in sweatpants and a hospital gown. Wedding guests included nursing staff, VAD/transplant coordinators, and the couple’s family and friends. Also in attendance were their coworkers from Gallatin, Tennessee, where Kristina and James both work in the Parks department. After the tearful ceremony, the newlyweds were treated to a bouquet of flowers and a celebratory dinner cooked by the hospital’s nutrition staff. Petal-tossing nurses serenaded Kristina and James with the familiar old lyrics “We’re goin’ to the chapel and we’re gonna get married.”

The couple was introduced more than 18 years ago by James’ step sister. She, in sisterly fashion, thought he needed to be “set up” and she’d been friends with Kristina for years. Kristina jokes that she and her husband have their own separate hobbies. She likes spending time catching up with their big group of family and friends, while James’ idea of a good time is tinkering in his hobby garage, where he keeps his tractor collection. Both bride and groom love spending time with their beloved English bulldog “Bully.” They live in James’ hometown of Bethpage, Tennessee.

This Monday, January 20th, the newlyweds get to recognize another milestone as James turns 51. Most nights, Kristina sleeps in a chair next to James’ hospital bed. Still, their spirits remain high as they wait hopefully for the news that James is getting a new heart.

Kristina Likens and James Summers

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