While the country’s on lockdown, this couple is getting their love on lock

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In the midst of a pandemic, Lauren Burnett and Jacob Bradshaw know one thing for sure.

They want to get married.


They knew it within three months of becoming college sweethearts at William and Mary. Now together for four and a half years, they were planning an October wedding when the coronavirus blew in and put that timeline in limbo.

So, in the meantime, they’ve decided to seal their love with a marriage license and a civil ceremony.

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“Initially, I didn’t want to get legally married early because I didn’t want to feel like we were being scared into it,” says Burnett. A nursing resident, the 24 year old assists surgeons in the operating room of a Washington-area hospital.

But love was only the number 1 reason for them to get a marriage license. Bradshaw, 26, is an attorney who works primarily on behalf of plaintiffs in personal injury and civil rights cases. He was not only facing the possibility of weathering the pandemic without health insurance, but if either of them had to be hospitalized, there was a chance they wouldn’t be allowed to see each other because of visitor restrictions to spouses only.


Even after Bradshaw’s work situation felt more secure, however, he found he was still looking forward to getting legally hitched sooner as opposed to later. “I feel like my days are sort of random and unpredictable right now,” he says. “I just wanted to go through all the uncertainty with the certainty of being married to Lauren.”

Photo by David Stuck

Bradshaw and Burnett officially met at a college party when he was a senior and she was a sophomore, but they were aware of each other from their involvement in the men’s and women’s rugby teams.

According to Burnett, they spent six hours talking about Fleetwood Mac that night, but Bradshaw gently disputes that figure. “Honestly, I think I was so excited by the fact that you were talking to me that I’m not sure I even really remember what we were talking about,” he says.

When Bradshaw suffered a debilitating shoulder injury in a game just three weeks after the they started dating, Burnett moved in with him and his seven housemates to play nurse — not a crazy leap for a future health care professional, but a bold move in a new relationship.

Bradshaw went on to earn his law degree. Burnett entered straight into an accelerated nursing program at Emory University after graduation, and she completed the program last fall. The couple moved to their present-day apartment in Rockville, and in February Burnett began her nursing residency, an experience she describes as “insane.”

“I haven’t worked in a world without COVID-19,” she says. But when all elective cases were
suspended indefinitely in mid-March, she knew she was entering a new normal.

“The Friday before, we were moving ahead full speed. Then that Monday, policies and plans changed multiple times. Visitors weren’t allowed except in extenuating circumstances. Only hospital personnel could use the hospital canteen. And while the foot traffic in the
hospital was reduced, the tensions increased as the number of [COVID-19] positive patients increased daily.”

“I am very proud of Lauren,” says Bradshaw. “I wish I had a means to be fighting it the way she is other than just by staying home.”

“I was worried we’d both get it,” he adds, “but after a while when you’ve lived with the threat this long it sort of stops being scary.”

The opinion among many of Burnett’s fellow first-year nurses in the operating room is that, after 10 weeks of working in the hospital day after day, it is statistically likely that most of them already have COVID-19, with or without symptoms.

“We like to think that we don’t have it, but we’re not entirely sure. The thing is we’re not really tested unless we’re symptomatic, so the challenge then becomes keeping ourselves healthy but then also making sure that we don’t bring it home.”

“You do your absolute best to not let it terrify you or petrify you to the point that it affects how you care for your patients,” she says. There were multiple COVID-19 patients in her operating room last Friday, and she traces with her finger where the N-95 mask she wore left welts, now faded, across her face.

Photo by David Stuck

The courts in Maryland are closed, but the couple applied for a Virginia marriage license that can be used anywhere in that state with an authorized officiant. The couple hopes to wed in the next few weeks with their best man and maid of honor serving as witnesses. Burnett hasn’t been in the same room as her mother for months, as she is immunocompromised, but many of the couple’s friends and family will also want to Zoom in and watch as well.

Bradshaw and Burnett still hope to have their wedding ceremony and party in October, but are prepared to postpone if the coronavirus is still a threat. In the meantime, they’re weathering the pandemic together. He plays lots of video games. She loves the baking competition “Nailed It” on Netflix. They are trying to grow bonsai trees.

Photo by David Stuck

But the sustenance they draw from each other’s presence is clearly visible, whether in photos or a Zoom interview. They promote each other’s strengths and accomplishments, and punctuate each other’s sentences with a kiss, or a gentle touch, or a face hidden behind the other’s shoulder in embarrassment or mirth (sometimes both).

“Somebody nicknamed me ‘Disney’ at work because I made the mistake of telling them there are doves nesting outside my window,” says Burnett. A timeless symbol of love because they are known to mate for life, the pair of turtledoves could not be more appropriate neighbors for this couple.

[email protected]
@RachelKTweets

 

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