Contrast

Contact

Share

MyChart

Help

Patient Stories

A Wedding on the L+M NICU Touches Many Hearts

newlyweds

When a New London couple got married on L+M Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit last week, local media clamored to cover such a rare and happy story, and James Pellegrini, MD, medical director of the NICU, stood before local news cameras to sum up what it meant to the NICU team.

“I’ve worked in NICUs for 30 years and this is my first wedding,” Dr. Pellegrini said. “It’s a great honor for all the people who make the NICU run, from the folks who wash the floors to the administrators who keep our lights on. All of us are honored to help families and take care of these babies and make them whole. To have a wedding on the unit, which is the ultimate in bringing a family together and making the family whole, is incredibly symbolic for all of us. It’s truly a joy.”

Jason Barnwell and Grier Stanley (now Grier Barnwell) had been planning a wedding for April 30, but, as one local paper noted, “their daughter, Drue, had other plans.”

newlyweds

When Drue was born three months premature on April 21, wedding plans were abruptly postponed. Suddenly, all that mattered was the health of their tiny infant, who weighed just over two pounds. Overnight, the nurses and doctors in L+M’s NICU became a vital part of the couple’s family, and day after day Grier and Jason hope and prayed that the NICU team – combined with “Drue-Drue’s” fighting spirit – would combine to help her grow strong and healthy.

“You don’t know if your baby’s coming home, so that’s rough,” Jason told one reporter, wiping away tears. Then, speaking to the NICU staff attending the press event, he said, “Without you guys, she wouldn’t be here. So, thank you. We’re just so blessed.”

Father Anthony DiNoto, of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Niantic, officiated the wedding on the unit where Grier and Jason spent 105 days watching over their baby’s progress. During the service, Grier held Drue close – the child is now about eight pounds – and Drue played dual roles as maid of honor and flower girl. Grier said they decided to hold the wedding on the unit so they could celebrate with their “NICU family” and then go home as “the Barnwell family.”

“The NICU crew is just amazing,” Grier said. “They made a backdrop, they played music, there were flower petals. We’re just so grateful.”

newlyweds

Nurses who cared for Drue and her family say they’ll never forget it. “All our tiny babies are special, yet this beautiful family really touched our hearts,” said Kristen Fulton, nurse manager on the NICU. “The love Jason and Grier share for each other and for Drue really spread joy and happiness to all of us on the unit.”

Jason and Grier met during the pandemic through an on-line dating service. He works at the Electric Boat submarine shipyard in Groton and serves on New London’s Planning and Zoning Commission; Grier is a therapist in New London. The couple said they will likely hold a future wedding celebration with family and friends, but, for now, they’re just basking in the glow of their marriage – and a beautiful little girl who went home with her mom and dad the day after the wedding.