It isn’t easy to roll a gurney through the forest—but that’s exactly what a team of firefighters did for a hospice patient who wanted to visit the great outdoors one last time.
For years, Edward Reis had been an avid park ranger who longed for the greenery of Washington. Unfortunately, the self-proclaimed nature lover also suffered from multiple sclerosis, and the disease forced him to spend several of his final years in hospice care.
During his stay at the Evergreen Health Hospice in Kirkland, the 62-year-old patient had been unable to go outside until March 2014 when he confessed to a hospice staffer that he wished he could take one last trip through one of his beloved local parks.
The staffers immediately jumped into action so they could grant Reid’s wish. After calling the Snohomish County Fire District and recruiting the help of several volunteer firefighters, Reid was taken on a peaceful voyage through Meadowdale Beach Park in Edmonds.
For three hours, the firefighters carried Reid and his gurney through the forest. They would periodically stop at creeks and clearings so Reid could take in the scenery, and they even collected cedar branches for the ex-park ranger to smell.
“The wheels of a gurney are like a shopping cart, so very small wheels on a trail—and it wasn’t like one of those little running trails at all, it was like a hiking trail … and we would stop every so often and he would just sit and listen,” hospice staffer Leah Gardner told ABC News. “He was just smiling the whole time. He was saying he was so happy. He was incredibly grateful to us.”
As fate would have it, Reid passed away shortly after his outing, but his caregivers hope that his story will help others to appreciate the emotional fulfillment of hospice care.
“People sometimes think that working in hospice care is depressing,” Evergreen volunteers later wrote on Facebook. “[But] this story … demonstrates the depths of the rewards that caring for the dying can bring.”
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