Holidays often remind us of family, but what if someone you love wasn’t able to join in the celebrations?
For the last several years, FirstHealth Richmond EMS has worked with local nursing homes to identify residents who are able to go “home for the holidays” and spend a few hours with their families.
EMS transports these patients at no charge to and from their homes.
“This year, Rockingham Manor was chosen as the facility that we would provide services to,” said Grant Hunsucker, FirstHealth Richmond EMS director. “We’re still waiting on a call to let us know who will be the recipient for the Christmas holiday.”
Donna Clary, director of nursing at Rockingham Manor, has been coordinating the facility’s participation.
“We choose the recipient by looking at whether the person is physically able to go, first of all,” said Clary. “Secondly, we look at whether or not the person’s family would be able to transport them without help. Many families pick up their loved ones on the holidays, and take them out. If the family has an issue with the transport we try to match them with this opportunity.”
Charles Covington, 83, was selected to be transported to his daughter’s home on Thanksgiving.
“I wouldn’t have been able to bring him home myself,” said Beth Howell of Ellerbe. “The last time I tried to get him in my car he almost fell.”
Howell said her family from around the state joined in the Thanksgiving celebration at her house.
“My dad was very happy, and surprised because he didn’t expect to see my brother there,” said Howell. “It was a blessing, and if it wasn’t for the EMS workers we wouldn’t have been able to do that.”
She reported that her dad ate and talked with the family for about four hours.
“Eventually he said, ‘well, don’t you think we better call them to come get me,’ I think he was ready to go take a nap,” she said. “It was pretty funny actually. I guess everyone wants to lay down after eating a big meal.”
Howell said her family was so busy talking they forgot to snap photos.
“I can’t believe I totally forgot,” she said. “I had a camera right there. We were just having such a good time I never even thought about it, but I wish I had.”
This service, offered on Thanksgiving and Christmas, allows a long-term care resident to be with family in the comfort of a home environment.
“I’ve transported patients twice,” said Clint Downer, FirstHealth Richmond EMS. “It’s pretty moving to see the families hugging and crying.”
Downer added that he rarely gets thanked while on the job, but during transports that’s all he hears.
“It definitely makes working on the holidays worth it,” he said.
— Staff Writer Kelli Easterling can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at email@example.com.