UF Health Proton Therapy Institute hosts first wedding, puts spotlight on medical tourism

A couple from England says local health care has changed their lives so much that they decided to get married today inside UF Health.

Jacksonville is becoming a destination for medical tourism.

Families, getting life-saving medical care while getting to know our community.

Action News Jax's Courtney Cole introduces us to a British couple who say our city has had such an impact on them, they decided to get married at UF Health.

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Family and friends gathered in excitement  for the union of David ‘Dave’ Leek and Bobbie Godden on Wednesday morning.

"We’ve been together 13 years and we’ve always joked around [about] getting married,” Leek told Action News Jax.

But this was no ordinary wedding, because Leek is a patient the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute.

In February 2014, he was diagnosed with sacral chordoma -- a rare form of cancer in the spine.

He had surgery to have it removed, but the tumor grew back.

But after his most recent surgery to get the tumor removed, in January, his doctor recommended proton therapy.

It allows for more targeted treatment, protecting the healthy tissue in the body.

Leek began treatment on May 1.

He may have six more weeks of treatment to go, but with the help of the staff here, he will hopefully have even more time to embark and enjoy the new chapter of his life back in the United Kingdom.

Leek is one of the 125 patients, this year alone, who traveled to Jacksonville for this treatment.

But since the institute opened in August 2006, more than 7,200 proton patients have been treated —including more than 1,000 pediatric patients (age 21 and younger).

While helping the welfare of others, it’s also benefiting the local economy.

For every patient treated, approximately $6,500 goes back into our local economy.

It adds up: $6,500 times 7,200 patients -- that’s about $46.8 million. And counting.

But Leek and Godden want to make sure it's the smiles and happy moments being created inside this center ... that are counted, too.

"Hopefully now they’re not going to have memories of being at the Proton center for cancer treatment, they came to the center to see us get married. Hopefully they’ll look at it a different way now,” said Leek’s wife, Bobbie Godden.

Patients from 30foreign countries and all 50 states have come to the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute for treatment.

For more information about the institute, click here.