Love on the Front Lines

When the coronavirus outbreak hit New York City, two nurses who were engaged postponed their wedding to care for patients.

Paulo Luardo and Carrie Wan haven’t yet tied the knot, but they’ve already proved their vows to each other: “in sickness and in health.”

Paulo, an Emergency Department nurse at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, and Carrie, a gynecologic surgery nurse at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, made the difficult decision to postpone their October 2020 wedding after the COVID-19 crisis hit New York City, placing them both on the front lines of the pandemic.

“It’s been quite the start to our engaged life, but I know we’re going to get through it because we have each other, and we understand each other,” Carrie, 28, says.

Paulo, 29, spent night shifts quickly adapting to the ever-changing circumstances that accompanied the novel coronavirus, coordinating with colleagues and expanding care capabilities to serve the influx of COVID patients at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Across the street at Memorial Sloan Kettering, Carrie powered through her day shifts, navigating a new world of comforting cancer patients through their continued treatments amid the anxiety of the coronavirus spreading.

“It was tough as a life balance for both of us,” Paulo says of the height of the pandemic. “Even sleeping you would hear the sirens. We were never cut off from work.”

But they managed to get through it, thanks, in part, to the kindness of strangers. Notes of appreciation slipped under their apartment door by neighbors inspired them, as did the resounding daily cheers heard at 7 p.m. in support of essential workers on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. “The support of New Yorkers definitely helped all of us,” Paulo says.

“It’s been quite the start to our engaged life, but I know we’re going to get through it because we have each other, and we understand each other.”

— Carrie Wan

At both hospitals, colleagues banded together and provided constant encouragement. In the Emergency Department at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, a wall of uplifting quotes served as a reminder of solidarity and hope. At Memorial Sloan Kettering, Carrie and her colleagues constantly checked in with each other, offering on their days off to meet up at a social distance and “cry together and let it out.”

“It was the little things that helped us get by,” Paulo says.

Carrie and Paulo isolated from loved ones at the peak of the crisis to help avoid the virus’s spread. Separation from family and friends proved especially difficult for the couple as they suffered the loss of close relatives and the hospitalization of others.

“There was so much going on, so we said, ‘You know what? We don’t want to remember 2020 as the year we got married, after all of this,’ ” Carrie says. The couple decided to postpone the wedding until June 2021.

Paulo and Carrie relied on the strength of their four-year relationship to overcome the unprecedented hurdles. After working on the front lines during the crisis, the small stressors of wedding planning now seem trivial.

While Carrie’s dress will sit in the closet for a little longer and new Change the Dates (featuring the couple wearing scrubs and masks) are awaiting their stamps, the two are looking forward to married life and the prospect of the new, big day.

“2020 has been a tough year for all of us. We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs,” Paulo says. “I’m hopeful that by next year we’ll be able to just celebrate something together. There’s so much anxiety about the future, but you can only hope for the best.”

“We’re taking it day by day, and at the end of the day, I have him, he has me,” Carrie adds. “We’re prepared for it because we have a really great support system around us. And after this year, I think we’re ready for any other challenge.”

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