Brian Arnott (58), who had been unwell for a number of weeks at the end of last year was diagnosed with bowel cancer before Christmas and was subsequently rushed into surgery to remove a tumour which had quickly grown to such a size it was threatening to perforate his bowel.
The operation was initially successful, but soon afterwards Brian, a mechanical fitter with Ineos, was hit by infections and developed sepsis. The cancer also returned and was so aggressive the tumour started to grow back almost as soon as it had been removed.
Things were not looking good for Brian.
His daughter Dawn (28), realising she may not have her beloved dad around much longer, made a difficult choice, which she admitted later turned out to be one of the best decision’s she ever made.
“Dad just couldn’t fight anymore,” said Dawn, a nail technician who runs her own business. “His lungs just couldn’t fill to capacity. I was lying in bed one night and said to myself I didn’t think I would ever get married without my dad being there.”
Dawn’s partner Matthew Bowman (28) was already like one of the family – they had been a couple since they were teenagers and engaged for the last four years – so, why not make it official?
Dawn said: “I thought, can I make this happen?”
The answer was yes, but only with a lot of help from family, friends, The Scottish Parliament, members of the church and medical professionals at Forth Valley Royal Hospital’s intensive care unit.
On Tuesday, January 7, Dawn asked her minister, Reverend William Shaw of St Mary’s Parish Church, if he would marry her and Matthew in FVRH’s ICU. He said he would, but she would need to get a licence sorted out.
The determined daughter looked up Google on the Wednesday to find out what red tape she would need to go through and realised she couldn’t wait the 29 days it would take to get the required documentation locally, so she went to the Scottish Parliament and applied for an emergency wedding licence.
“We had to give them evidence of how seriously ill my dad was,” said Dawn.
On Thursday, Dawn then rushed into town and bought herself a £20 wedding dress and Matthew got a suit from Matalan and the couple got the news at 4.30pm that day their emergency wedding licence was granted.
“All we had to do was pick a date,” said Dawn. “We decided to do it the next again day. I told the minister the licence had been granted and asked if he could marry me tomorrow. He actually came round that night and went over things.”
Dawn’s big sister Deborah Callander (31) organised all the wedding decorations and her soon-to-be brother-in-law Alistair Bowman (33) took care of the cake.
The wedding was set for noon on Friday, January 10 and, when he learned about the event about to take place at his bedside, Brian actually looked to be getting stronger.
Dawn said: “I think he was holding on for us, I really think so – on the Wednesday he wasn’t doing too well and he heard me talking about the wedding. He then gave me a big thumbs up.”
“He knew what was happening,” said Brian’s wife Kay Arnott (58). “We said, if it’s too much for you we won’t do this. He just gave me a wee nod.”
The staff at ICU made things as nice as possible for the couple – putting sheeting over the medical equipment and even laying on a buffet in a family room with a “Mr and Mrs Bowman” sign on the door.
“All the nurses were so excited,” said Dawn. “There are no words to describe how amazing the staff were. My dad’s consultant even gave me a bouquet of roses. Matthew’s mum and dad were there, my mum, sister and nephew were there.”
And, of course, her dad.
Dawn said: “We were married right next to him, right beside his bed. I think we broke every rule in the hospital rulebook – we had more than two visitors to a bed, fresh flowers and food in the room.”
Mum Kay and Dawn’s three-year-old nephew Harris Callander, who was also the ring bearer, walked her down the “aisle” and her dad Brian gave her away.
After the ceremony the newly married couple went to visit Brian’s mum Elizabeth Arnott (81) before returning to the hospital to spend more time with Brian.
“It was perfect,” said Dawn. “Nothing went wrong, everything just fell completely into place. And it had only been 24 hours since we applied for the licence and started organising everything to us actually getting married in the hospital.”
Sadly, just as quickly Brian seemed to fade away after the ceremony and he died on Saturday, January 11.
“It really did mean absolutely everything, him being there,” said Dawn. “I cannot thank the nurses and the staff enough – they could have said no. It just meant the whole world to me.”
While they only took 24 hours to tie the knot, Dawn and Matthew’s love story stretches back to their teenage years.
Dawn said: “The first time I ever saw Matthew I was 13 and he was playing football with crutches and a big stookie on his broken leg.”
“I was in goal,” Matthew explained.
The couple began seeing each other on and off after that and Matthew, who had been attending Graeme High School, moved to Grangemouth High where Dawn was.
“I told my friends I hope he’s not going to be in any of my classes,” said Dawn. “And then in walks Matthew into my form class.”
Matthew walked in and Dawn ran out.
“We’ve been together ever since we were 15,” said Dawn.
Fast forward to 2016 and Matthew, who works as a mechanic at Jarvie Plant, was on holiday with Dawn in Amsterdam when he popped the question.
“So we were engaged for four years,” said Dawn. “We’re never in a rush to do anything. The thing with us is we knew we didn’t want a big extravagant wedding – we actually did want a small intimate wedding.
“You don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings though by not having them there. We just never got around to doing it the way we wanted to do it – it was always next year, it just kept on going on and on.”
Then earlier this month, of course, extreme circumstances forced the couple and their families into action and, with a lot of help from medical staff and others, they actually had what Dawn called her “perfect wedding”.
Brian being there on the day was the icing on the cake and something that cannot ever be taken away from the couple.
His funeral will take place tomorrow at 11.15am at Falkirk Crematorium.