On Valentine’s Day, Rubia Ferreira and Tyler Campbell got married in a hospital neonatal intensive care unit so that their premature daughter, born at 24-weeks, could attend.
In November, Ferreira was visiting Campbell in his hometown of Jasper, Alabama, when she started to feel strong pain in her stomach. The couple rushed to the hospital where the 42-year-old expectant mother was diagnosed with HELLP syndrome, which usually develops in mothers before the 37th week of their pregnancy.
HELLP syndrome, which prevents a mother’s organs from functioning properly, can induce a variety of symptoms, including seizures, blurred vision and high blood pressure. It usually results in the mother having to have an emergency c-section, which is exactly what doctors decided with Ferreira. In order to save the lives of both Ferreira and her baby, they operated immediately.
“I was nervous, but she was a lot more than I, so I was trying to stay calm to make her feel better. I was really nervous,” Campbell told PEOPLE.
On November 8, 2017, Ferreira gave birth to her daughter, Kaelin Maria, via c-section. Because of her extremely early arrival, she required around-the-clock care for the first months of her life, and the doctors at the University of Alabama at Birmingham warned Ferreira and Campbell, who were engaged to be married, that Kaelin would have to remain in the NICU for months to come.
Campbell and Ferreira met in Okinawa, Japan when Campbell, a U.S. Marine, was stationed at the time. They were planning to wed on the beaches of Okinawa, but these plans changed after Ferreira gave birth four months early.
One day, Ferreira was on Facebook when she came across a video of a couple getting married in a hospital. She immediately knew what she wanted to do.
“We asked our nurse liaison, and she was all about it! That was about two weeks before Valentine’s Day, and she thought it would be perfect if that was our wedding day,” Campbell told PEOPLE.
On February 14, 2018, the couple was wed by a hospital chaplain in the NICU, standing beside 5-month-old Kaelin.
“I was definitely nervous! Every nurse in the hospital was watching me, and I’m just standing there! But then you get into the moment, and you don’t worry about who is around you, and that happened to me when I saw her walking down our little makeshift aisle, which is the hallway to our daughter’s room. It was awesome,” Campbell said.
What made it even sweeter was Ferreira was walked down a makeshift aisle created by one of their doctors, neonatologist Dr. Waldemar Carlo.
“We were very happy, the fact that our daughter could be there with us. We didn’t think we would be able to do anything in the ICU. We were really excited,” Campbell said.
Ferreira shared that she loved getting married in the hospital because it meant that their daughter could be beside them.
“I’m so happy because we got married in front of Kaelin,” she said. “Everybody helped me!”