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Christina Gossner EMT-P



AMR Sonoma County

I am a Paramedic in Sonoma County, in Northern Ca. One shift many years ago we responded to an elderly male who was having blood sugar problems. "Elmer" had a history of stroke and was non-ambulatory and in a wheelchair. He lived at home with his wife. Upon moving him to the gurney for transport to Kaiser, I noticed he had several very large and beautiful 10" abalone shells on display on his shelves. He also had various pictures posing in his wetsuit out at the Sonoma Coast and displaying his catches of the day. During transport we talked about abalone diving (a very popular and sometimes dangerous sport/hobby here in Northern California) and he got teary and emotional recounting his many years of diving. He said it had been 11 years since his debilitating stroke- and the resultant symptoms which had rendered one side of his body useless had ended his diving forever. He spoke of how much he missed both the sport of it, and eating it. It is illegal to sell abalone in the stores, so he had not even tasted any in 11 years.

After my partner and I moved him into the hospital bed, I asked him if there was anything else we could do for him at that point. He grinned and tapped his cheek, so I gave him a peck and we laughed. 

I was thinking about Elmer for the next few hours of my shift, and how he had lost the ability to do something that he truly enjoyed. I thought to myself- well, I can’t help him ever dive again- but I can certainly get him some abalone to enjoy again. My husband is a recreational diver and I asked him to go out on the next good tide days to get some abalone for Elmer. 

A week or so later, I called up Elmer’s wife and re-introduced myself, telling her what I had for her husband as a surprise. I asked her if she remembered how to prepare it and she laughed at me. "Oh goodness, yes of course," she said.

My partner and I got the permission of our supervisor and we drove over to Elmer’s house out of service in the ambulance and delivered to Elmer some abalone, bread crumbs and fresh eggs from my chickens. I said, "Elmer, do you remember me?" and he tapped his cheek and said, "Of course I do!" and we laughed again. When he saw what we had brought him he was overwhelmed. He started to cry and couldn't talk for a minute. He then had me push his chair into the den and he and his wife showed me all of his shells and pictures again. They were so appreciative. I felt so good giving something that was so small, but meant so much.

I don't know if "Elmer" is still with us, but I was happy to be a small part of one day that made him smile and remember.