Hospital stages prom for ailing teen

His emergency appendectomy canceled date for her senior prom, so staff arranged for an alternative

By Susan Parrish, Columbian education reporter

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Intertwined in each other’s arms, Jacob Linnell and Lydia Lynch slow danced. A corsage tied to her wrist, she wore a seafoam-green strapless gown. Under his suit jacket and tie, he wore a matching seafoam-green hospital gown.

After about a minute of dancing to “All of Me” by John Legend, Linnell had to sit down. It really did take all of him.

Linnell, 18, a senior at Battle Ground High School, had planned to escort Lynch, 18, his girlfriend, to her senior prom Saturday night at Hockinson High School. But his emergency appendectomy around 2 a.m. Saturday forced the couple to miss the dance, so hospital staff created a mini prom in Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center’s sixth-floor conference room.

In the wee hours Saturday, Linnell’s appendix burst as his parents drove him to the emergency room. His mother, Michelle Linnell, texted Lynch: “We are on the way to emergency room. Jacob is in a lot of pain.” Lynch met them at the hospital.

With his blood pressure dangerously low, Jacob required immediate surgery.

Afterward, the nurses overheard Michelle Linnell talking about the couple missing Lynch’s prom.

Realizing what a landmark event prom is for high school seniors, Laura Hickman, charge nurse in the Intermediate Intensive Care Unit, had an idea.

“When I heard Jacob was going to miss his girlfriend’s prom, I wanted to do something special, since he was going to be stuck in the hospital that night,” Hickman said.

She talked to some co-workers. Becky Rogers, a social worker, went shopping on her lunch break and bought silver and blue balloons and stars, Hockinson’s school colors. Michelle Lynch (no relation), a registered nurse, and Deann Graham, a certified health technician, helped, too.

They decorated the room and provided red roses. They found a tablecloth and set the conference table with sparkling cider and plastic champagne flutes. The hospital’s food and nutrition department provided cake and cookies. The couple’s parents delivered a Burgerville dinner, because that’s the pre-prom dinner the couple had planned.

On the large audiovisual screen, staff projected a photo of a red carpet. The staff found speakers and hooked them to a smartphone to create dance music.

Linnell could dance only for about a minute, but they got pictures and videos, and at least marked the occasion. Their parents took photos.

“It was definitely a group effort,” Hickman said. “We wanted to do something nice for him and his girlfriend and their families.”

It was all a surprise to Lynch and Linnell, who have been dating for a year. They thought they were dressing in their finery to pose for photos.

“That was probably the sweetest thing that ever happened,” Lynch said, sitting beside Linnell on his hospital bed Monday afternoon.

Linnell is doing well and has a good prognosis, said Brian Willoughby, hospital spokesman. He may be released today. He will have to miss his last two soccer games, but he may get to dance at prom yet.

The couple had planned to attend only Lynch’s prom at Hockinson, but now they are considering attending his May 30 prom at Battle Ground High School.