Couple weds in NICU next to son who fights for his life

The newly-married Nelsons hold son JJ just after the ceremony.
The newly-married Nelsons hold son JJ just after the ceremony.Today

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By Kavita Varma-White

For Kristi Warriner and Justin Nelson, finding the perfect place to wed came amid an experience of loss, hope and faith.

The newly-married Nelsons hold son JJ just after the ceremony.Today

The couple—now the Nelsons—got married on Tuesday afternoon in the neonatal ICU at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas, where they have held vigil since early September. They were joined by hospital staff and family members, including their 36-week-old son JJ, who remains in care of the NICU after his premature birth at 1 lb, 13 oz. Now 6 lbs, 5 oz., JJ lay nearby in a crib dressed in a tuxedo onesie and held the wedding rings on a white pillow as his parents exchanged vows.

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"We wanted our family together. He couldn’t leave the NICU so we brought the wedding to him,” Kristi Nelson told TODAY.com.

The Warriner-Nelson wedding ceremony. Today

Having lost JJ’s identical twin brother Colt, who was delivered as a stillborn, was a large reason of why the Nelsons decided to get married in the room where their faith has been tested, they said. For the past 11 weeks, the Nelsons have watched as JJ struggled, fought and survived. They celebrated Halloween with him there, and likely will be there for Thanksgiving.

Ring bearer: JJ wore a tuxedo onesie and held his parents' wedding rings for the ceremony.Today

And they decided to share the story of their wedding as a way to reach out to parents who have either lost children in utero or struggled with a child fighting for life in the NICU.

“It is the most heartbreaking thing to ever go through as a parent,” Nelson told NBC News affiliate KXAS. “Our mission behind all this was to hopefully let others [know] that have been there, are there, or unfortunately one day could be in a similar situation as ours, and let them know they are not alone.”

The staff at Cook Children's was more than happy to help the Nelsons have the wedding. "Our work doesn't stop at taking care of children," says Wini King, assistant vice president of communications. "Anytime we can help families become closer, healthier and stronger, we are willing to do what it takes." 

Kristi Warriner and Justin Nelson hold vigil in the NICU where JJ has been for the past 11 weeks since his premature birth.Today
JJ dressed up for Halloween as a Dallas Cowboy football player.Today
Kristin Warriner and JJ Today