A BRIDE whose married life lasted for just hours before she became a widow has paid tribute to the kindness and compassion of hospital staff who organised her wedding.
Debbie Burton and Leslie Wright, who had been together for 34 years, made their vows to each other at his bedside in Stafford Hospital's acute medical unit, just eight hours before he died of lung cancer earlier this month at the age of 64.
And hospital staff pulled out all the stops to give the couple a precious and very special last day together, Debbie said.
"I just can't thank them enough," she said. "Their care for us both throughout was amazing.
"There are some really good people there, and they don't get the praise that they should.
"The hospital chief executive Maggie Oldham and Sister Jo Perry, who is in charge of the acute medical unit, organised everything for us.
"They contacted the register office, took photos and put them in an album, provided a cake and did all the catering, even including champagne, and gave me a bouquet of flowers too."
Debbie, aged 49, had been at her partner's side throughout his last month of illness and had not given any thought to a wedding dress.
So one of the nurses on the unit brought in her own wedding dress for the bride to borrow.
"It was so kind of her," Debbie said. There was such a mix of all sorts of emotions on that day. Les was very poorly by then but he understood what was happening, and the staff were absolutely brilliant and so supportive.
"We had all of the family with us for the wedding and it seemed like half the hospital staff were there too."
The couple, of Peach Avenue Rickerscote, have two sons, Darren, aged 31, and Mark, 27, and three grandchildren, Leo, 12, Cameron, five, and Holly, three.
They first met when Debbie was only 15. "I'd only had two boyfriends before I met Les," she said. "My mother didn't take kindly to it at first because I was so young but she came round in the end. We were totally right for each other and we did everything together, but somehow we just plodded on and didn't get round to getting married.
"Les was a quiet, thoughtful family man who doted on his grandchildren. He didn't drink, or go out much. He was happy just being at home with me, doing the garden or working on his car."
His thoughtfulness is illustrated by the birthday gift he arranged for Debbie, whose birthday was this week - a gold locket with his picture inside and "I will always love you" engraved on the back.
"It was a surprise he had organised with the boys about a week before he died," she said.
Les worked at Alstom doing maintenance and as a delivery driver for over 40 years, and Debbie said scores of his colleagues turned out to pay their respects as the cortege passed by the Stafford factory on the way to his funeral last Friday.