Burned man wants reality TV show to offer hope

Posted Saturday, Mar. 30, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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COLLEYVILLE -- Like any couple, Dallas Wiens and Jamie Nash had a busy Friday, the day before their wedding.

Unlike many couples, while they checked the programs, and approved the cakes and flowers, they were trailed by a camera crew.

When Wiens and Nash get married today in a west Fort Worth church, they'll be doing more than starting their lives together. They'll be starting their lives as possible reality TV stars.

Their wedding is the featured storyline for the pilot of Down Providence Lane, a show created by Grapevine-based Carlene Altom. It follows several people who have experienced tragedy and gone on to help other people.

Wiens became internationally known when he received the nation's first full-face transplant after an electrical accident while working in Fort Worth in November 2008. Nash was badly burned in a car wreck in 2010 in Ellis County.

They met in a support group at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas and became engaged in November.

Asked what message he wants to send by letting TV cameras into his life, Wiens had a one-word answer: "Hope."

Wiens, of Fort Worth, and Nash, of Colleyville, spent all day Friday meeting with the vendors who have donated wedding planning, cakes, the bride's dress, photography, catering and decorations.

Several are clustered in The Village in Colleyville, where the couple hopped door to door doing final preparations.

Because they have signed an exclusive contract with People magazine for coverage of their wedding, Wiens said they could not answer the Star-Telegram's questions about that.

But they were under no such restriction about the TV pilot.

The pilot

Altom said she set up an initial meeting with Wiens in a fast-food restaurant.

A young man who overheard them talking came up to their table in tears and told them that they had to make the show, she said.

After that, Wiens was on board.

Learning that Wiens and Nash were having trouble paying for a wedding, Altom asked vendors to donate services. The response will be part of the show's pilot.

When she told the couple the proposed title, Altom said, they jumped out of their seats because "providence" has special meaning for Wiens. He describes what has happened to him as "divine providence."

"My faith says there is no such thing as coincidence," he said. "It's made me a better man."

In the show, Altom helps Wiens connect with Jay Johnson of CMT's Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders Making the Team to help him toward his goal of becoming a motivational speaker.

What will set Nash and Wiens' televised wedding apart from others?

"The reason it's going to come off so good is because of the couple," said wedding artistic director Marty Edwards. "It's not the same reason [people] watch celebrity or royal weddings. They change peoples' lives."

The show's director, Delano Bryant, said he plans to have the pilot completed in about a month.

Altom said this is her first television venture, but she's already in talks with at least one network interested in the pilot.

On Nov. 13, 2008, Wiens was in a cherry picker painting Ridglea Baptist Church in Fort Worth when his head touched a power line. The surge of electricity destroyed most of his face.

At Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, doctors performed more than 20 procedures to save his life. The dead flesh from his face was removed and replaced by tissue and muscles from other parts of his body. He was left with a scarred, almost featureless face.

He left the hospital with no eyes, nose or lips and began intensive rehab.

In March 2011, he got a full facial transplant at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

In June 2010, Nash was texting and driving when her PT Cruiser veered off the road, flipped and caught fire in Ellis County. She was trapped, screaming for help as emergency personnel and passers-by used fire extinguishers and an ice chest to put out the fire.

Also taken to Parkland, she remained in a coma for 10 weeks. Her recovery has included more than 20 surgeries, including the most recent, in which her fingers were straightened.

As part of her recovery, she was attending a burn victim support group where she met Wiens.

The wedding

About 300 guests have been invited to the ceremony at Ridglea Baptist Church, which Wiens attended as a boy. Since he is blind, wedding coordinators say they have selected fragrant flowers to enhance his experience.

Colleyville's Opulent Cakes is donating the bride's and groom's cakes.

"They're a deserving couple," owner Donna Nino said. "I do donations if it's something that's a good cause."

To fit the wedding's Zen theme, the bride's five-tier square cake has pastel pink icing and black branches with pink cherry blossoms. Each layer is separated by Chinese lanterns.

The reception will be at the Flying Saucer in downtown Fort Worth, another donation to the couple.

Where are they going on their honeymoon? Altom said it was a secret.

Nash plans to continue visiting schools to talk about texting and driving. She has started the TXT L8R (text later) foundation, which aims to raise awareness of the dangers of texting and driving.

The couple hopes to build on their Pain with a Purpose ministry to help other burn and injury victims.

Altom said there's a reason the two were able to find one another.

"Their passion for helping other people is what brought them together," she said.

This report includes material from Star-Telegram archives.

Dustin L. Dangli, 817-390-7770

Twitter @dussssstin

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