"They told us they wanted other people to hear this, so clinicians who find themselves with a patient goal that is out of the norm will pay attention. That's a critical part of care and we have to be mindful of it," says Conway.
Erdmann adds, "It wasn't about Gundersen; it wasn't about me or Dr. Conway. But look at what so many people came together and accomplished: what the patient really wanted. It was such a team effort."
After he was discharged, Smothers kept in close contact with Erdmann, texting back and forth about twice a week.
Elvin Smothers died the week before Thanksgiving 2013. He wouldn't have been able to make the original wedding date.
"I wanted to go to that funeral because I had developed a friendship with him," says Erdmann. "It was pretty amazing when I went because I didn't know one person other than Kathy, but there were multiple people who came up and thanked Gundersen, through me, for everything we did for this family."
Though Smothers' death turned out to be inevitable (as ultimately, everyone's is), the experience with his wedding helped remind a first-class healthcare organization that sometimes the best medical care and technology doesn't make a difference.
What you do when the patient can't get well matters just as much. Maybe more.