One of the Queensland paramedics who granted an elderly patient her dying wish to visit the beach one last time has broken down while recalling the heart-wrenching experience.
Graeme Cooper was pictured standing beside a palliative care patient as she took in her final breaths of ocean air from a hospital bed overlooking the water at Hervey Bay, a coastal city in Queensland.
The incredible photo was captured shortly before the woman passed away in the ambulance on the way to hospital, and went viral when it was to Queensland Ambulance Service’s Facebook account.
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Graeme Cooper stood with a dying palliative care patient after taking her to the beach, while still in her hospital bed, to fulfil her dying wish
Hervey Bay paramedics Mr Cooper(left) and Danielle Kellam (right) granted the elderly patient her dying wish to visit the beach one last time before she passed away in the ambulance
‘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.
He fought back tears explaining 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.’
Paramedic Danielle Kellum on Thursday recalled the terminally ill patient’s heartwarming message as she lay looking out towards Fraser Island.
Ms Kellum asked the woman, ‘What are you thinking?,’ and she answered, ‘I’m at peace, everything is right’.’
Mr Cooper told Daily Mail Australia two weeks ago, the Hervey Bay local wanted to go home from palliative care to die in her own home with her husband.
Mr Cooper recalled the heart-wrenching experience while fighting back tears on Saturday
‘We asked her how she would feel to go by the beach on the way home and she lit up, it was wonderful actually,’ Mr Cooper said on Thursday.
‘While we were down there, we let her look at everything.’
But it wasn’t until her second visit to the beach, where she passed away a short time after, on the way back to the hospital on the central coast of Queensland.
The woman was able to see an ocean view from Fraser Island, to the iconic Urangan Pier all the way through to Bundaberg.
Mr Cooper said the Hervey Bay local wanted to go home from palliative care to die in her own home with her husband
‘I got a throw away vomit bag and filled it with salt water, she tasted it with her mouth,’ Mr Cooper said.
‘These things are always special, dealing with someone whose journey is coming to an end.
‘It’s a powerful, moving, connecting moment … I can’t describe how it happens, it’s priceless.’
Queensland Advanced Care paramedic Mr Cooper and QAS paramedic Danielle Kellum took the terminally ill patient to the beach twice before she passed away