An 8-hour road trip fulfills a dying veteran's last wish

FIRE
Members of the Chillicothe VA fire department recently took an 8-hour road trip to fulfill the last wish of a dying veteran. Photo credit Department of Veterans Affairs

The call was one that Department of Veterans Affairs firemen in Chillicothe, Ohio don’t often receive.

On Aug. 24, a request for assistance came from the Dayton VA Medical Center about a terminally ill veteran hospitalized at the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia.

He needed to be transported to his home in Centerville, Ohio.

According to a VA blog post, within less than an hour of the request, the fire department received approval, confirmed patient care needs, and had an ambulance on the road. The crew members on the trip were DJ Richards, Mike Menendez, and Nathan Hyman.

The road trip is about an 8-hour drive from Chillicothe; the crew was in regular communication with the veteran’s doctors and nurses the whole way: The veteran had previously received two liver transplants and was on the list for a third when doctors found that he was terminally ill with cancer.

The vet’s final wish was to return home and pass there, surrounded by his loved ones. Within an hour of their arrival, the crew had loaded the patient and his wife in the ambulance for a final journey home.

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The veteran was frail and the firemen were unsure if he would survive the long trip home. They worked in shifts driving, providing care to him, tending to his wife, and resting when they could.

Before falling asleep, the veteran reached out and grabbed the hand of firefighter Menendez and said, “Thank you.” He held his hand for over an hour in his sleep.

“When we got the veteran home, his wife said, ‘Honey, we are finally home.’ When he heard his wife’s words, he expressed the biggest genuine smile I have seen in a long time,” Menendez said in the blog post. “After… transferring the veteran to his own bed, we all thanked him for the honor of bringing him home. Even though he was extremely weak and frail, he tried to salute our crew as we left.”

The man arrived home safely on Aug. 25 and died peacef