Sick Andre Pearson had resigned himself to watching his daughter get married via video stream, but thanks to the efforts of the Mayo Clinic, he instead gave her the surprise of a lifetime.
Too ill to qualify for a heart transplant and with his kidneys failing, the 61-year-old from Omaha, Nebraska, had maybe a year to live when he entered the famed hospital in Rochester, Minnesota, in March, according to the clinic.
Any hope of seeing his daughter Alexandra getting married in California this past week appeared to be lost.
But after undergoing dialysis for his kidneys and major surgery to repair his heart valve including – in a first for the Mayo – having ventricular assistance devices in both chambers of heart to help it pump, Mayo staff came up with a plan to get him to the West coast.
"I can't help but cry, but it's tears of joy," Pearson said on Thursday, after Mayo staff told him he had medical clearance to leave the hospital for the wedding, with a staff member accompanying him to California.
It set up an emotional surprise reunion with his daughter, who was preparing to get ready for her wedding when her father's wheelchair came through the door – before he promised to walk her down the aisle.
"It still overwhelms me that somebody would do that for me and my family," Pearson told KAAL. "One thing that I always told her, is that we are family, and we're going to stick together no matter what happens."
"Every dad wants to walk his child down the aisle," he added – and here he is doing it.
Pearson's Minnesota Vikings link
In another twist, it was revealed that Pearson had another link with Minnesota other than his treatment in Rochester.
He is the brother of former Dallas Cowboy Drew Pearson – who famously caught a "Hail Mary" pass against the Minnesota Vikings to win their divisional playoff game in 1975.
The Mayo Clinic's leading cardiac surgeon Dr. David Joyce described the surgery on Pearson as "a bit of a Hail Mary pass" itself, but thanks to the success of the treatment, he is likely to return home within the next month.
"Really, if you were just to look at everything on paper, you would say, `There's really nothing here we can offer.' Then when you meet Mr. Pearson and you realize what he's capable of, then you start to think outside the box a little bit," Dr. Joyce said.
"That's when we came up with the idea of using a new device for supporting the right heart (the right ventricular assist device). He was kind of a pioneer and willing to take on that uncertainty, and it actually worked out beautifully."