A dying judge who had vowed to officiate his daughter’s wedding was able to keep his lifelong promise from his hospital bed.
Casey Kapalko, 27, and her partner Stephanie were married on April 15 by Casey’s father, Monmouth Superior Court Judge Paul Kapalko, in the intensive care unit of a New Jersey hospital.
He was diagnosed with carcinoid, a rare cancer, in 2011 and was originally given four or five years to live.
Six years later, he performed his final act as a professional judge by wedding his daughter as he lay propped up in the ICU.
Paul died 12 days after the ceremony.
Speaking to Daily Mail Online, Casey described the whirlwind of last-minute preparations that went into creating their makeshift ceremony in the ward despite tight hospital controls.
Paul had offered to marry Casey and Stephanie after they announced their engagement in 2016.
They originally planned their wedding for November. But as time went on and Paul became weaker, they moved it up to May.
‘We’d sent invites out, we had a marquee, we had a heater because my dad was having trouble keeping warm… It was all ready,’ Casey said.
But on April 12, the Thursday before Good Friday, Paul was admitted to hospital, his condition spiraling.
The next morning he was moved to the ICU.
At that point, Casey says, they weren’t necessarily thinking of getting married in the hospital, but they started trying to get everything together.
‘It was a little bit crazy,’ Casey said.
‘We had already applied for the marriage license early, but we needed to get it – and everything was closed for Good Friday.
‘It was really a team effort.’
That was no exaggeration.
Her stepfather got in touch with the daughter of a member of the town council, who was on vacation. That council worker contacted the mayor of Asbury Park, who called Casey’s mother on her cell phone and told them to meet him at the town hall.
Finally, they arrived, he opened the town hall for them and delivered them the documents.
‘We still didn’t think it was going to be possible because they were limiting visitors to just two at a time because his white blood count was so low.
‘But then while we were at my mom’s later, she got a phone call saying the nurses would bend the rules a bit and squeeze two or three of us in.
‘I looked at Stephanie and said “want to get married today?” and she said “yeah let’s do it”.
‘My mom drove us, I wrote the vows in the back seat, and Stephanie called all the family members.
‘There were eight of us there in total, and two of our friends from Chicago FaceTimeing in.’
For the hospital room ceremony, everyone in attendance was wearing masks and gloves since Paul’s immune system had become weak from his illness. Christina, Casey’s 23-year-old sister, served as the maid of honor.
‘He was always well-spoken, so thoughtful in his words,’ Casey told the Asbury Park Press. ‘We both wanted him to do it.’
The wedding, less than two weeks before Paul’s death, was a testament to his brimming energy throughout his six-year battle with cancer.
A carcinoid tumor is a rare type of tumor.
It grows in the neuroendocrine system, which creates hormones to regulate reproduction, metabolism, eating and drinking behavior, energy use, and blood pressure.
As a result, they are categorized under ‘NETs’ (neuroendocrine tumors).
Most carcinoid tumors tend to start in the lungs or the digestive system, though some have been detected in the testicles, ovaries and pancreas.
Paul’s carcinoid appeared to have started in the pancreas, however by the time it was spotted it had already spread to his digestive system and liver.
NETs produce different symptoms depending on where they are located. In general, they tend to cause fatigue and dizziness.
For those with NETs in the digestive system it can also cause weight loss and nausea, while carcinoid of the lung causes chest pain.
NETs are more common in African-Americans than whites – particularly in the digestive system. Women are slightly more likely than men to develop an NET. Most people are diagnosed with carcinoid tumors in their 40s or 50s.
Casey said Paul’s diagnosis was unexpected. He was having some stomach issues, but was not sure it could be serious. Within a few months he was diagnosed with the cancer, which does not have any effective treatment. While some therapies can extend lifespan, there are few options, if any, to beat the disease.
His diagnosis came just as Casey’s mother was given the all-clear from both breast cancer and melanoma – (she remains in remissi
Daily Mail Mia De Graaf