Teacher William Kent’s terminal cancer left him unable to say “I do” when he married fiancée Emma at his hospital bedside – instead he made his solemn vow with a tight hand squeeze.
The code had been agreed with the registrar before the pair married because the 24-year-old could not speak or blink due to nerve damage caused by the cancer he had fought for six months.
But William was determined to wed graphic designer, Emma, 25, who he had proposed to on Valentine’s Day nearly three years ago.
As he could not speak, it was agreed that instead of saying “I do”, he would squeeze the registrar’s hand.
“The squeeze of the hand was so tight,” said Emma. “There was no doubt in my mind at all that he wanted to be married.”
His father, Mike, supported William’s hand so he could make a mark on the marriage register.
Family from both sides as well as friends from Ilkeston’s Ormiston Enterprise Academy, where William taught, crammed into the hospital room after being given just hours’ notice of the ceremony.
William’s mother, Helen, said: “At 11am that morning they weren’t getting married but then the nurses said how William and Emma had been speaking about it a few weeks beforehand. They said that if they wanted to get married and William’s dad and I agreed, they could fix it for that day.”
After consent was given, nurses at Nottingham City Hospital rallied around to organise the registrar and to get the room ready.
Emma said: “I rushed into town to buy wedding bands. They only stocked samples so I bought those.”
William’s sister, Rachel, 26, said: “It was a really happy day, a lovely occasion. You might not think of that when you think of a wedding in a hospital but it was, it was really nice.”
William died 11 days after the whirlwind ceremony.
Emma and William had met at school as children but it was not until the they were in sixth form that they started dating.
He popped the question to Emma at his parents’ house in Holbrook.
Saving up for the house and starting their jobs meant they put back the wedding until 2014. But their bright future was dealt a bitter blow in April this year when William began getting pains in his arm and coughing.
He went to the doctors but was sent home. However, the pain in his arm persisted so he returned to see his GP who sent him to Royal Derby Hospital. He was referred to Nottingham City Hospital where he was diagnosed with lymphoma – a type of cancer – and began chemotherapy.
His strength declined, his muscles weakened and immune system lowered, forcing him to stay in hospital. When he was able to, doctors allowed him home to spend the odd day with Emma, his family, and beloved dogs Poppy and Riley.
The hospital tried a new form of treatment for the type of cancer William had but it was unsuccessful. Doctors found cancer in his nervous system and lymphoma in his brain which stopped his speech. He died on Wednesday.
Emma said William wanted to be a father, was ambitious as a teacher and was loved by many people.
“Everyone adored William,” she said. “He made friends with everyone he met and he had a huge group of friends.”
Dad Mike said it had been university which had given William the determination to succeed as a teacher.
“He did change. He was the same character but he really got serious about wanting to do things,” he said. “Teaching for him was not just a passion but he had real flair for it. “
To his sisters, both older sibling Rachel, and Emily, 15, he was a caring brother. “He was just amazing,” said Emily.
And even when William had first been diagnosed with cancer, he did not complain.
Mum Helen said: “Right to the end he did not get angry or have outbursts. He would still crack jokes. It was a real comfort to us actually.”
William’s funeral will take place on Tuesday, October 23, at Holbrook Church from 2pm. The family have set up a donation site for the Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research charity. People can make donations at www.justgiving.com/william-kent.