Local father fighting COVID-19 surprises daughter by attending wedding virtually

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GRAHAM, N.C. — Bride Kayla Hayes received an unexpected guest on the day of her wedding. 

Her dad, Mark Thomas, had spent the last month in the hospital fighting COVID-19. She knew he wouldn’t be able to attend. 

Cone Health nurses and team members decided to dress Thomas up on the day of the wedding, even going as far as decorating the room. They connected Thomas to the wedding using FaceTime so he could see his beautiful daughter walk down the aisle. 

“It made me sad but happy-sad that he could be there even though he wasn’t physically there,” Hayes said.

And even though Thomas couldn’t physically be there because of COVID-19, his presence was felt after he read a heartwarming letter to his daughter during the ceremony. 

“I knew we were going to FaceTime him so that he could see. I didn’t know that he could talk — that they took him off the ventilator the day before — so when he spoke to me that was a shock,” Hayes said. 

Her dad garnered enough strength to be removed from the ventilator and read the letter. During the FaceTime call, Hayes was standing at the alter listening overwhelmed with emotions. 

“He told me that I would always be his little princess no matter how big or how old I got. I could always come back to him,” she said. 

Thomas is recovering well inside of the Cone Health Green Valley hospital. Hayes says the seriousness of this virus has given everyone in her family a different view of the meaning of life. 

“I’m more grateful for what I have than I was before and I’m sure that’s what everyone says when anything happens and I don’t take anything for granted anymore,” Hayes said.

Their family is very appreciative of Cone Health going out of their way to make sure her dad could be at their wedding. The family has also started a GoFundMe account to help with medical bills. 

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