A 30-year-old Indiana woman lost her battle to cystic fibrosis just two days after marrying her fiancé in a hospital ICU.
Anna Gonzales — who was diagnosed with the disorder as an infant — died at about 3:30 p.m. Thursday of the disease, her brother, Santiago Gonzales, tells PEOPLE.
On Tuesday, the Goshen, Indiana woman had been able to tie the knot with fiancé Justin Middleton in a bedside ceremony, which was quickly arranged by nurses, respiratory and physical therapists, social workers and other caregivers at Indiana University Health in Indianapolis, when they realized their patient had little time left to live.
Her brother, 33, and his wife, along with Middleton, were by her side when she died. Gonzales’ mother and other siblings were unable to make it there in time and arrived shortly after.
“Traumatic,” Middleton tells PEOPLE of the death of his new bride, who had been in “shock” when she was told about a week ago that her condition was rapidly declining.
“She thought she would live at least until she was 40,” he says.
The couple started dating about three years ago. Middleton, 26, was so smitten that they moved in together a few weeks later. He loved “her laugh,” Middleton says, and the way “she would do silly things to make people talk to her.”
“She was spontaneous, a little witty,” he adds.
Middleton popped the question about two years ago and had been trying to save money for their wedding. But then Gonzales was admitted on June 2 to the hospital, and about a week ago was told “she didn’t have much time left,” Middleton says. “One of her biggest wishes was to marry. It meant the world to her.”
That’s why hospital staffers jumped into action, sewing the bride a wedding gown and veil that could be fitted around her breathing tubes, decorating the room and bringing in cake and gifts.
Gonzales was able to say, “I do,” even as she struggled to breathe, a common result of cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that affects the lungs and makes mucus thick and sticky. The average life expectancy of adults with cystic fibrosis is about 37, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Though the couple was not legally wed because of Gonzales’ overwhelming medical bills, her brother says he’s grateful his sister got her final wish.
“It was a dream come true,” he says of the nuptials. “It was like a fairy tale. She finally met her Prince Charming… I just know it meant the world to her.”
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