‘It was my 15th wedding anniversary. Her daughter messaged me, ‘She isn’t doing very well.’ I started bawling. ‘I have to go see her. I can’t miss this again.’: Medevac dispatcher drives a thousand miles to meet client with terminal cancer

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“Last week, I dropped everything in my hectic and crazy life (job, husband, 4 teenagers, dog, cat, house to take care of, bills, etc.) to drive from Nebraska to Lubbock, Texas all by myself to see someone I love and adore. But in the 5 days I was in Texas and New Mexico, I drove a total of 60 hours to see crews and pilots I’d only ever spoken to on the phone for the last 3 years.

I’m a medevac dispatcher for Texas and New Mexico, but I live in the Omaha, Nebraska area. So, I typically never get to meet the people I dispatch, or the people I talk to for ground services and things of that nature. At one of the ground service companies I use in Lubbock, I became really close to someone whom I adore and love dearly — her and her daughter actually. She’s a beautiful soul, a wonderful human being, and even from a thousand miles away, she became like a second mom to me. She has terminal cancer and is doing hospice from home, with the help of her daughter and her amazing family and friends.

Two weeks ago, her daughter messaged me and told me she wasn’t doing very well. It was the day of my 15th wedding anniversary, May 25th. I immediately started bawling. I couldn’t even read the message to my husband; I had to show it to him. I lost my mom 9 years ago on June 2nd, the night before my 28th birthday, and I wasn’t there for her when she needed me most. The only thought that kept running through my head is, ‘I have to go see her. I can’t miss this again.’

I jumped up, jumped in the shower, packed a bag (which my husband helped with so I didn’t forget anything), and prepared to leave. Then, I remembered it was our anniversary. I looked at my husband and told him if he didn’t want me to go, I wouldn’t. He held me and told me I needed to go and see her, and we could celebrate our anniversary anytime.

I left. I went up to my work to ask for the 2 days I worked that week off, and they said it was fine. I drove the 9 or 10 hours to the Texas border and realized I would get into Lubbock at about 6 a.m. So, I decided to stop and see a few of my crews first. I stopped in Dalhart, TX; Roswell, NM; and Carlsbad, NM. I had a blast meeting everyone in person, but I knew I needed to get to Lubbock. I was putting it off because the closer it got to me seeing her, the more I thought about how hard it was going to be.

I finally got there, and I almost broke down when I saw her. I started shaking, but she knew me by voice right away. She couldn’t believe I was there and neither could her daughter. I got the biggest hugs from both of them. I wouldn’t let go of her hand and even laid in the bed with her and talked to her for a while. She asked me where I was staying, and I told her I didn’t know but I would work it out and get a hotel room if I needed to. She and her daughter both immediately shot down that idea and told me I was staying with them.

The next day, I didn’t want to be too intrusive, and I knew there were a lot of family and friends coming and going who wanted to spend time with her. And… since the cat was out of the bag that I was in Lubbock, I had crews left and right asking me to come visit them. I couldn’t resist, being so close. I went to Hobbs, NM and Snyder, TX that day, and when I told my friend I was leaving, she said to make sure I told them thank you for her and to promise to come back. She knew some of these crew members too, and she cared about them and worried about them just as much as I did.

I came back later that afternoon, spent more time with her, and called my husband bawling because I couldn’t believe how hard it was knowing I would be leaving the next day and would most likely never see her again.

The next day, I got up, and as I was preparing to say goodbye, I had to step outside and cry before I walked in and gave her a hug. I watched her get sick, watched her entire family jump in to help her in any way they could, and I cried some more. At this point, I really didn’t want to leave. I sat with her a little while longer and then finally told her I needed to go. She gave me a great big hug and kiss, told me she loved me, and told me to tell my partner she loved him and to quit giving everybody a hard time.

That afternoon, I drove to Portales, Santa Fe, and Taos, New Mexico to meet a few more of my crew members and pilots. I had every intention of going home after, but decided I should probably get a good nights rest rather than driving another 21 hours in a day. I decided, since I was so close, I would make the drive down to Alamogordo, NM and get a hotel there. I got there at about 2:30 a.m. and didn’t fall asleep until about 5 a.m.

I woke up the next afternoon, went and visited my crew and pilots at our base there, and then drove to Portales, NM again on my way back home. I stayed there the longest, probably because I just wasn’t ready to go home and face reality again.

Driving by yourself that much, with very little cell service most of the time, and an open road with endless time to think, puts a lot of things into perspective. This trip taught me I need to take time for the simple things in life, like just taking a drive by myself, stopping to take a picture of the beautiful scenery I am completely surrounded by, spending time with people I care about the most in the world, playing in the rain, and making time for the things that really matter.

I have been a Texas/New Mexico dispatcher for 3 years, and while my crews trust me and know me very well, and I admire them for what they do and am always, always looking out for them and watching over them… physically getting to see them, hug them, and get to know them was more rewarding and more fulfilling than just talking to them on the phone or the radio. These people literally trust me with their lives, and to finally get to meet them meant the world to me.

My friend from Lubbock knew that. She was a dispatcher too, and she worried about her crews probably as much as I worried about mine. She told me I needed to go see them since I was so close to them with me physically being there, and they needed to get to know me the way she did. I didn’t get a chance to visit every base I dispatch for or see every crew member I wanted to (NM is a pretty big state to drive across by yourself), but I’ll be back soon.

I’m not going to take my down time or my alone time for granted anymore. I learned so much about myself in that time. Aside from the fact I’m fully capable of taking a road trip by myself and not getting lost or kidnapped, and a hotel room for one is a dream, especially when you’ve never had that before. I had a lot of time to reflect, a lot of time to think, and a lot of time to evaluate what’s important in my life. The people I love, adore, and admire are what’s important. I’m going to make more time for them from now on, before it’s too late. ”

Courtesy Sarah Graverholt

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Sarah Graverholt. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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