Constable: Virus cancels their wedding twice, but doctor couple had its victims to tend to
Giving themselves plenty of time to plan their 2020 wedding, Buffalo Grove native Dr. Lauren Singer got engaged on Aug. 19, 2018, when Dr. Jonathan Fergus gave her an 8-week-old Australian shepherd named Miley with a tag reading "Marry Me?" and a ring on her collar. Everything was set. And then ...
"We sent out wedding invitations two weeks before this all happened," Singer says in the first of many references to changes in her life caused by COVID-19. Her March 28 wedding shower was canceled. So was the couple's May 24 wedding at Loews Chicago Hotel. They recently postponed their rescheduled wedding date of Nov. 28. But those aren't Singer's worst experiences with the pandemic virus.
"Seeing people die alone," says Singer, a medical doctor doing her neurology residency at Rush University Medical Center, where she worked 28-hour shifts in April caring for patients in the COVID-19 intensive care unit. "It is probably the worst thing you can see. The concept of passing away alone is something I truly hope nobody has to experience."
Singer has. "A lot," she says, adding that she's also made those difficult phone calls to families who can't be with a dying loved one. Singer would work from 6 a.m. today until 10 a.m. tomorrow, go home to sleep, and then work a 12-hour shift the next day.
Fergus, doing his interventional radiology residency at The University of Chicago Medicine, spent many 12-hour shifts caring for patients and reading chest images of people suffering from COVID-19.
"Watching a patient deteriorate on imaging is heartbreaking," Fergus says.
So having a wedding, or two, pulled out from under them is not the worst thing.
"Of course, it's upsetting. Like every other person in the world, I've thought about my wedding forever," Singer says. "But there are bigger things going on."
Fergus and Singer are used to uncertainty and having to adapt on the fly. Both landing residencies in Chicago was a huge positive for their relationship.
"We don't know what to do about our wedding. We've been putting off a lot of things for our careers," Fergus says. "The thing we struggle with most is the level of uncertainty."
Fergus grew up in Southern California and still hasn't embraced Chicago winters, so the couple wanted a wedding in the spring, or maybe summer. Now they've scheduled it for Sept. 5, 2021.
"What the world looks like in September of 2021 will be our new normal. We are getting married on Sept. 5," Singer figures. If that means a smaller crowd, bridesmaids in matching face masks and virtual hugs from 6 feet away, so be it.
"John and I kind of joke that we're already married," Singer says. The doctors started dating as students at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine in Auburn Hills, Michigan, and have been together for seven years. "What's more important is for us to celebrate with our families in whatever capacity they can feel comfortable."
They had a celebration of sorts on their original wedding day when parents Andrea and Jeffrey Singer hosted a surprise fete with a wedding veil of toilet paper but a real wedding cake.
There is the option of having a virtual wedding online through services such as bustld.com. After all, it's not as if Singer's story is unique.
"I was supposed to have nine weddings this year," says Singer, who did attend one in March before the stay-at-home regulations took hold. Two of her bridesmaids had to postpone their weddings, too.
Planning on a wedding with about 150 guests, Singer mailed out formal invitations. When that May date was canceled, she sent emails asking people to save the November date. She says the vendors have been very understanding about all the changes. And their families are also very supportive.
Having to make phone calls to families of patients who died, Singer realizes how much she wants her grandmother, Sari Zucker of Lincolnshire, to be able to safely attend any shower, party or wedding.
"It's really important for me to have her as part of everything," Singer says. "We just want to have a wedding where everybody feels safe and comfortable being there."
Singer and Fergus have seen how deadly and devastating COVID-19 can be.
"I think people don't realize the gravity of the situation because they don't see it every day," Singer says. "Working with the population has made it more real to us."