A love story that began at Inova Loudoun Hospital marked its next great chapter at the same place.
On Valentine’s Day afternoon, hospital nurses Mike Jones and Jane Trachsel tied the knot in the hospital’s Lisa Dugan Memorial Chapel. It was a fitting environment for their wedding, a little more than two years after their courtship began.
The two nurses had their first date on New Year’s Day 2019, a couple of months after Trachsel first put the bug in a coworker’s ear that she was interested in Jones.
“I was taken aback by his kindness and his caring towards his patients. That put him in the limelight for me,” she recalled of her initial impression of her future husband.
Jones said when that same coworker gave him Trachsel’s number and told him to reach out, he was in disbelief that she was interested in him, and also had heard she was going to be moving back to her native Switzerland. Although he thought Trachsel was a nice, attractive woman, he wasn’t sure that he was ready to get back into a relationship. But when Trachsel made the first move and texted him, he immediately made a dinner reservation and asked her out.
Their courtship included a trip to Switzerland in the fall of 2019, where Jones was able to meet Trachsel’s parents a few months ahead of the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 would shape much of the couple’s personal and professional lives come 2020.
“We mostly got pulled into working with COVID patients full time starting the end of March,” Trachsel recalled. “We really had to rearrange things.”
Jones, who shares custody of his son, and Trachsel, who has two adult children, had to make the difficult decision to stop seeing their children for a while to keep everyone safe.
“We were scared to bring anything home,” she said.
The couple moved in together in Jones’ home, while Trachsel’s children, who had been sent home from university, stayed in her house. Although they lived together, the couple said at first they were like two ships passing in the night, working different shifts at the hospital.
On July 1, COVID-19 hit home, as Jones tested positive.
“I texted her that I wasn’t feeling quite right, so I said ‘maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea if you didn’t come here tonight’. I went and got tested, the next morning they called to say [I was] positive. That was kind of a shock. I had a bit of congestion, I guess the symptoms you hear about hadn’t really started yet,” he recalled.
Trachsel sent her kids back to college, and went back to live at her own home. The two ended up being apart for about two months while Jones fought and recovered from COVID. Perhaps the most gut wrenching period during that time was when Jones had to be admitted to the hospital.
“Even when he was in the hospital and I was working with COVID patients, he couldn’t have visitors. He was so close and yet so far away. Sometimes that little thing can just destroy you emotionally,” she said.
Trachsel said she was comforted knowing Jones was receiving the best care, and the two stayed connected with many FaceTime calls, where she reminded him to take his temperature and take care of himself.
While he was still sick with COVID, Jones got a call from the jewelry store that the engagement ring he and Trachsel had picked out was ready for pick up. As soon as he tested negative twice and was cleared to return to work, a trip to the grocery store and to pick up the ring were two of his first stops. He proposed to Trachsel at home that same night.
“It wasn’t how I imagined proposing to her in the home but I just knew there wouldn’t be a right moment, and I didn’t want to wait,” Jones said.
So when they considered what to do for their upcoming vacation time in February, the two decided it was about time to go from being engaged to being married. They quickly decided to get married in the chapel, and the hospital chaplain encouraged them to have their wedding on Valentines Day.
Their choice to wed in the hospital chapel is significant for a number of reasons. Both knew and loved Dugan, the late chief nursing officer of Inova Loudoun and the chapel’s namesake. Dugan was also close with Trachsel’s mentor, Michael Schwartz, who passed away from cancer in August 2018. The former evening team leader for patient registration in the emergency department, there was a memorial service for Schwartz in that same chapel Oct. 14, 2018, just following the night shift where Jones and Trachsel met. Their first date also happened to fall on Schwartz’s birthday.
“It felt symbolic to me to meet Mike that same night,” Trachsel said. “[Schwartz] always said to me, ‘you’ve got to meet someone, you can’t be on your own’. Neither of us had dated in over a decade.”
During their brief ceremony Sunday, Trachsel’s bouquet contained a red rose honoring Schwartz, who had always said that red roses meant everything was going to be alright, she said. With COVID still very much around, and the two continuing to exercise caution, physical guests at their wedding included only the chaplain and a photographer, who also happens to be a clinical technician at the hospital. Family, friends and co-workers were all invited to tune in via Zoom. In addition to exchanging vows, the couple’s guests, present and virtual, got to witness their first dance as husband and wife, and a small reception. They remained masked except for one important exception—their first kiss.
Though the newlyweds are waiting until COVID abates to travel for their honeymoon, three units of the hospital got together to purchase a night at Lansdowne Resort for the couple, along with a Valentines dinner and brunch the morning after.