REAL LIFE

Paramedic in tears over patient he took to the beach one last time

The photo of the Queensland paramedic’s touching act has gone viral.
Channel 9

The incredible photo of a Queensland paramedic granting an elderly patient her dying wish to visit the beach one last time captured the world earlier this week.

And now, Graeme Cooper – the paramedic who was captured standing next to the palliative care patient in the image – has spoken out about the incredibly moving moment.

‘We got another call to take her back to hospital because things had changed and she wanted to pass away at the hospital so we said “how about the run by the beach again?”,’ Mr Cooper told the Today Show. 

Fighting back tears, he explained how he’d collected some ocean water and allowed the patient to swirl her fingers through and taste its saltiness for the final time.

‘She said it was just so beautiful and she closed her eyes for a minute, and her heart rate just accelerated, I could see it palpating in her chest,’ he said. 

‘She opened her eyes again and I asked how she was and she said ‘it’s time for me to go’ and we loaded her back in the vehicle.’ 

Mr Cooper, who has been with QAS for 27 years, said he was overwhelmed by the public’s response to the touching gesture.

‘I can’t explain what and why we do it, but we do. To spend time with somebody that you don’t know, I had never met this lady before in my life, but it’s like she was my family,’ he told Nine News. 

‘I never expected it, and I didn’t even know the photograph was taken.’

‘Sorry about the emotion, but I’ve just got so much,’ Mr Cooper said.

‘(It’s) all overwhelming but it’s what we do and we’re real people too and we share these moments with people when we go out and we do the stuff we do – some stuff’s just very touching.’

Hervey Bay officer-in-charge Helen Donaldson said a crew was transporting a patient to the palliative care unit of the local hospital when the woman wished out loud that she could ‘just be at the beach’ instead. 

‘Above and beyond, the crew took a small diversion to the awesome beach at Hervey Bay to give the patient this opportunity — tears were shed and the patient felt very happy,’ she said. 

The moment was captured by paramedic Danielle Kellan in a moving image that was posted to the organisation’s Facebook page and has started to go viral with thousands of ‘likes’ and comments. 

Mr Cooper said he sought permission from superiors before taking the patient out of the ambulance. 

‘In special cases where end of life stuff is going on…the contact we have is our last contact…[we want to] feel good about humans and people and the way they’re treated and managed so they get a good feeling,’ he explained. 

‘It’s always someone else’s father, mother, brother. If I lose my compassion I just won’t be in the job.

‘We’re very fortunate we’re in the role we do … if you’re sensitive to your surroundings … when a window of opportunity opens up, take it.’ 

A QAS spokesperson wrote in a Facebook post that ‘sometimes it is not the drugs/training/skills — sometimes all you need is empathy to make a difference.’

This article originally appeared on New Idea.

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