CHARLESTON—In early February, Paige Witte thought the most important things in her life were all mapped out.
She was enjoying her career as a pediatric nurse at the Medical University of South Carolina and looking forward to marrying her fiancée, Jason Fisher, at Rome’s St. Patrick Church on April 21.
Then the COVID-19 crisis erupted and everything changed.
Suddenly the dream wedding in Rome wasn’t going to be possible because of the coronavirus outbreak in Italy. Her job taking care of children in the pediatric cardiac intensive care unit at MUSC’s Children’s Hospital became more challenging, and frequently frightening, as fears of the virus loomed.
As both a bride-to-be and a health care worker, Witte had to turn to her faith and the support of her fiancée and loved ones to deal with the challenges she now faced.
The couple initially changed their wedding plans to happen in early March so they could have their ceremony at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston, where she is a member.
Then, as the number of COVID-19 cases grew, the diocese was forced to put restrictions on the number of people who could attend weddings. Their second set of plans were scrapped when they learned that most of their out of town guests would not be able to attend, resulting in a scaled-back ceremony that would include their mothers as the only guests.
“Initially I kind of went through something like the stages of grief — shocked, then angry, then I was sad and I cried all the time, but then I just decided that it is what it is,” Witte said. “We’re going to take the money we would have spent on the larger ceremony and put it toward buying our first home.”
In the midst of all the uncertainty over wedding plans, Witte has also been dealing with the challenges that face all health care workers as they try to do their jobs during the new reality of COVID-19. She has dealt with shortages of masks and protective gear and seen the emotional toll that new hospital safety policies take on young patients and their parents. Only one parent can visit or stay with the children at a time, so some children become stressed when they can’t see their other parent or their siblings.
Witte has been living with her mother, whom she takes special precautions to protect from the virus. When she returns from work, she undresses on the porch, puts her scrubs into a plastic bag, leaves her shoes outside, and then immediately showers and changes clothes as soon as she gets inside. She constantly sprays her purse and other work bags with Lysol and does all of her work laundry separately.
In the end, the couple’s wedding came together on April 21 in the lower church of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston and was live-streamed so all of their family and friends could participate, at least virtually.
She said the changed wedding plans and working during the pandemic have given her new perspective.
“I know God has a plan, even though I might not see it right now,” Witte said. “My fiancée and I have been telling each other that since this started. We might not see the big picture but He does have a plan. And this does make you see what is really important. Everyone always asks both of us how we are dealing with this, and while it is stressful, this makes you realize that what is important is the purpose of the wedding day itself, not where it is or who is there.”