TWO love birds have been married at the Countess of Chester Hospital after the community and NHS staff pulled together for their special day.
Former taxi driver Bill Sansby, 67, has been a patient at the Countess for more than six months. His partner Maggie travels 74 miles a day to be by his side.
It was during one of these visits that Bill stunned his partner of 20 years by proposing, setting off a whirlwind fortnight of planning.
It ended with the couple finally tying the knot in front of family, friends and ‘dog of honour’ Bailey on the ward where he has grown very close to the nurses who look after him.
Maggie said: “It was very special after so many years of being together and we were absolutely over the moon with everything they did for us.
“I just expected it to be Bill, me and a few family members by his bed. But to be told they’d booked a room and had it decorated professionally. It was just wonderful.”
Bill and Maggie first met on the taxi ranks in Warrington in 1984, with Bill’s reputation preceding him as the man to ask for advice when Maggie started driving a cab.
They began as colleagues and friends before love blossomed in 1997.
Regular night shifts meant many of their first dates were spent having a coffee in one of the few cafes still open at 3am.
Bill was very touched that friends from the taxi rank he hadn’t seen for years came to the wedding, along with several members of his family – including his step-grandson watching via FaceTime from the USA – but it was the presence of border collie Alsatian cross Bailey that made it even more perfect.
“Bailey’s very special to me,” Bill said. “For her to be part of our wedding was just perfect.”
He added: “The staff appreciate my dry sense of humour and think the world of me. They also love it when Maggie brings Bailey to visit.
“I can’t thank everyone enough for everything they did for us.”
Once Bill proposed to Maggie, it was a true team effort to get things ready.
With Bill having been in hospital with a series of complex issues he has lost around eight stone in weight, so Maggie had to guess his size and buy new clothes for him as well as sorting her own dress, the rings and taking Bailey to the dog groomers.
Meanwhile, ward manager Julie Dixon rang around for help with catering and decorations.
But that task was made easier as soon as Chester’s Marks & Spencer food section manager Katie Webb made sure her team got involved. “We jumped at the chance to help,” Katie said.
“We’ve brought food, a wedding cake and our visual team, who dress the store, have come in as well to decorate the room.
“It’s amazing for us to get to do this, to have that involvement in our community, and more importantly make it a day to remember for Bill and Maggie.”
Julie added: “Bill has been with us for a long time and he’s such a popular character among staff and other patients.
“He’s been through a lot with Maggie in recent months so for us to get the chance to help make their big day special was brilliant for all of us.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever been involved in anything like this and the sheer joy it’s created around the hospital has been fantastic.”
See full story in the Chester Leader