Sentimental Journey Program Helped Father Embrace Life at Its End

December 19, 2018
EMS Journey Photo blog size

On Thanksgiving morning, my father, George Ivory, sat looking out at the ocean, the bustle of the day’s big meal prep already underway inside the house behind him.  A crowd of 24 was gathered, ready to celebrate a day that had come to mean so much to all of us.

This was the thirteenth year of a traditional Thanksgiving beach holiday Dad started to get everyone together, for not just one day of feasting and togetherness, but a full week. He rented a big house and welcomed friends and family alike.

This year, though, he almost didn’t make it.  He was hospitalized the week prior, his health failing rapidly from pneumonia and assorted other conditions.  He tolerated only a couple days in a hospital before convincing his doctor he needed to leave. His doctor graciously recognized the beach was a more powerful therapy than anything he could prescribe.        

Getting him to the beach from his home in safety was another matter. But through New Hanover Regional EMS and the Sentimental Journey Program, Dad made it to his rented house overlooking the ocean in comfort and in the company of three amazing EMTs.

As his grandchildren – and those considered grandchildren for the closeness of the families – arrived from all over the state and various college campuses, he was there to greet them. He sat on the porch and watched the ocean, enjoying both the coming and going of the tides and the joyful conversation of friends and family reunited.

The hospice nurse warned us he didn’t have long, but dad kept going. He joined us at the Thanksgiving table, said grace, and basked in the love and appreciation of all those gathered.

Once his mission to make it through Thanksgiving was complete, he slipped gently away on Friday morning, still able to listen to the waves while holding our hands and taking his last breaths.

Death rarely comes without pain and suffering, and my dad’s passing, through weeks of decline, was no exception. But it was also beautiful for the recognition that sometimes there are opportunities to seize near the end of life, and they should not be missed. Dad knew that. And, thanks to NHRMC EMS and hospice care, he was able to experience, one last time, everything that made the annual week at the beach so special.

New Hanover Regional Medical Center’s Sentimental Journey program partners with Lower Cape Fear Hospice to help those at the end of life have an experience that will be meaningful to them.  Started by NHRMC EMS’s Warren Brown and Lower Cape Fear Hospice physician Ted Winneberger, MD, it has provided dozens of special excursions. Sometimes, it’s a trip to the beach.  Other times, it’s a night out to a favorite restaurant with a loved one. Each time, it’s a trip that provides a moment of happiness at a time of sadness, a chance to love life before it ends, and a beautiful memory to hold when it’s time to mourn.

My family would like more people to have the opportunity to experience a trip to the beach at the end of life, so the NHRMC Foundation is accepting gifts to the NHRMC EMS fund in George Ivory’s honor to buy a beach wheelchair. With it, we hope more of those who are facing the end of life will have the opportunity to experience the warmth and soothing power of the beach, the ocean, and the company of those who love them. 

Categories: Patient Stories
Topics: NHRMC Team
AMAZING STORY!! It brought tears to my eyes, what a wonderful program and what a blessing that EMS team was to the family. ;) It's just a small piece of why I so enjoy being a part of the medical profession.
This is an EXCEPTIONAL testimony to the caliber of talent we have across NHRMC. Spiritual Care would like to appreciate and respect the collaboration between EMS and Lower Cape Fear Hospice. This is truly purposeful, worthwhile work that made a tremendous difference.
What a beautiful testimony to the compassion our Foundation has for the community we live in. Thank you for making final wishes come true.
What a wonderful story and an amazing tribute for a father from a loving daughter. He was indeed a treasure as are the METs and nurses that made it possible. Great job Carolyn!
What an amazing gift for end-of-life patient. Praises to EMS and Lower Cape Fear Hospice for making this happen. I'm still crying.
The warmth and love I felt in this story brought me to tears. From his desire to create an annual tradition for his family to his daughter's desire to keep that tradition going no matter what the obstacles......and yet there were none too large to overcome. To all those that made it are a blessing!!!
What a very touching story!
Thank you for giving those the chance to forget their illness if only for a while and embrace their life the way that they were meant to❤️
He is pain free, God bless his family
Beautiful tribute to your dad and the folks who helped make his transition a beautiful one. I'm truly sorry for your loss.
Perfect ending. Thank you for sharing this experience with us. NHRMC and Cape Fear Hospice are incredible organizations that "get it" when it comes to understanding dignity.
What a lovely story- thanks for sharing such tender moment with us.

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