Madeleine Bush and Jonathan Wu’s love was born in a Level 1 trauma center in Texas

The ER nurses canceled their March 21 wedding and returned to Denver to deal with the coronavirus.
5 min. read
Madeleine Bush and Jonathan Wu. (Courtesy: the couple)

Madeleine Bush and Jonathan Wu like to joke that they got to know each other by "wiping other people together."

Things get messy in an emergency room, which is where Bush and Wu met in 2015. The ER nurses were working in a Level 1 trauma center in Houston, the fourth biggest city in the U.S.

Suffice it to say there were a lot of people to be wiped.

The native Texans longed to leave their home state and explore, so after knowing each other for less than a year they decided to become traveling nurses, working at hospitals around the U.S. for a few months at a time.

Their last stop three years ago was Denver. They decided to stay for the close proximity to the outdoors -- and its close-but-not-too-close proximity to family back in Texas.

It didn't take long for them to acclimate and start becoming true Denverites. For example, their proposal happened at a campsite.

On a weekday in June 2019 they found a secluded spot near Bishop Castle, just outside Pueblo. "We had the most perfect campground," Bush said. "We crossed this tiny little bridge (to get there). We were making dinner and then we were trying to make a fire, but our wood wouldn't light because it was wet. Jonathan was acting awkward. I was like, 'Why are you so upset about this fire? It's fine!'"

In their pitch-black tent, Wu asked Bush to be his wife that night. "It's funny because I couldn't see the ring or anything," she said.

They decided to marry at a historic firehouse in Houston on March 21, 2020. Wu's father is from Hong Kong, and four of his family members were to fly in for the occasion. So would their friends from around the world, from Arizona to Australia.

Bush and Wu remember the exact moment they started thinking about canceling the wedding. A little over a week before their nuptials, they were in Amarillo, en route to Houston from Denver. That day, President Trump announced he was expanding his travel ban from Asia to certain European countries to stem the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

"And then every day after that things started," Wu said. There were restrictions on large groups of people, businesses started closing.

As medical professionals, they understood better than most the risks of COVID-19.

"We were telling our family members, remember to wash your hands, don't touch your face, follow CDC guidelines and best practices," Wu said. "It would have been hard for us to tell them those things and be like, we're going to have this wedding. We wanted to be scientific people, and also we would feel like the worst humans on Earth if our elderly family members got sick because of our wedding."

"I kept saying, it's our social responsibility, we have to cancel the wedding," Bush added.

They drove back to Denver a week before they were scheduled to return so they could get to work.

"It was hard to get hours because everyone wanted to work, too," Bush said. "We did end up going back to work. We both worked on our wedding day!"

On top of grappling with the emotions brought on by their canceled wedding, Bush and Wu both admitted that their respective hospitals (which they declined to name for this story) have been eerie as of late.

"When we got back I was calling it, like, a slow burn," Wu said. "There were ominous clouds hanging over our heads. There was just not much happening, but if we got people in the emergency room they were most definitely critically ill. It's been slowly ramping up. (Last week) we started getting busier."

Wu said ER staffers are trained to deal with abrupt, "here-and-now trauma," as he put it. "Somebody gets in a car accident, you deal with it and you're done," he said. "This has been a lot more...ER nurses specifically are struggling because it's been a slow build up rather than an abrupt boom. That's the point, right? The whole point is to flatten the curve. It's just a change. The whole world has to re-frame how they think."

Bush said the confusion surrounding personal protective equipment shortages was what has worried her the most.

"There was so much info about PPE, and you have to get that information from your organization, not the world," she said. "So not being at work was more anxiety-provoking than being at work."

They have rescheduled their wedding to January 2021.

"Our vendors were really nice; for now we have essentially everything that we had before," Bush said. "It'll be interesting to see if international guests will be able to come. Of course, that's a huge expense. Also, what happens with the world, right? If we are able to have it next year, we'll have so much more to celebrate."

Denverite is writing wedding announcements for couples whose nuptials have been postponed because of COVID-19. If you or someone you know is in this boat, let us know at [email protected].

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