The ability to freely walk outside and go to your favorite bookstore, restaurant or movie theatre is something people take for granted, says Mary McAdams of American Medical Response in San Diego.
The general assumption is that six months down the line, we will still be healthy enough to do this, McAdams says.
She helps coordinate the Sentimental Journey program through AMR, which provides this luxury to people who may not be able to do either of these things.
Sentimental Journey is a nationwide program that donates round-trip transportation to a hospice patient to visit a special place of their choice. Also provided is a paramedic to take care of any medical needs the patient may have during the trip.
“Some of these patients haven’t left their facility or home in upwards of six months, except maybe for doctor appointments, because their caregiver can’t get them in a vehicle or they’re not able to sit comfortably for long periods of time,” McAdams says.
McAdams says the range of locations that the patients choose varies pretty widely. San Diego is known for its beaches, so some patients want to take a trip to the beach.
Because San Diego is a military town, many want to visit the USS Midway Museum, an aircraft carrier ship recently turned into a military aviation museum.
On their most recent outing, the spouse of a World War II veteran visited the ship. The woman’s spouse was held in a Japanese prison camp for 32 months, and wrote a book about his experiences. This afforded the couple the ability to visit area high schools in San Diego and tell about his time in the military. She was active in the POW community, and is recognized at an annual meeting. During his time in the military, the woman’s spouse had actually served on the USS Midway. Since she hadn’t been able to go to the museum because of her condition, the program took her and her daughter to visit.
McAdams says one of the reasons the program ends up being so special to the patients is it’s often the last time they’re able to go outside and do something they enjoy, and it creates a memory for them.
“Often times, they die with the lasting memory of this special trip,” McAdams says.
One man wanted to take his spouse to their favorite restaurant for Valentine’s Day. The program was able to arrange this, and the restaurant gave them a free meal and ensured they had a wonderful time. Within about two months, the man passed away, McAdams says.
Having the paramedic accompany the patient is a great benefit to the EMT and the other people involved.
For the paramedic, it gives them an invaluable experience in regard to delivering patient-centered care. McAdams says this is part of AMR’s mission statement.
“It really brings to light the difference that their training and empathy can make in the lives of their all of their patients,” McAdams says.
For others involved, the paramedic provides a break in the action of providing care for the patient.
“Especially for the spouse, it provides a little relief from care taking, which is nice for them,” McAdams says.
She says seeing the impact the program has on the paramedics in the present and in regard to their career choices is one of her favorite parts of the program.
Her other favorite part is being able to make a difference in the time the patient has left.
“We come in at what’s sort of a dark point in their lives,” McAdams says. “It’s special that we can offer a bit of a beacon of light, even if it’s just for two or three hours.”
The San Diego program is run through Scripps Hospital’s hospice program, and McAdams says it’s very well received within the five-hospital system.
The Sentimental Journey program won a Gold Stevie Award from the 2015 International Business Awards in the corporate social responsibility program of the year category. The program also won a Silver Stevie Award for corporate social responsibility program of the year at the 13th Annual American Business Awards.
AMR performs about one sentimental journey per quarter, and have done eight so far in San Diego.