A Dutch ambulance driver has helped fulfil the dying wishes of more than 14,000 people including an elderly couple who wanted to see snow for the last time.
Retired paramedic Kees Veldboer, 60, came up with the idea when transferring a terminally-ill patient to another hospital, and when there was a delay asking the patient where he would like to go.
The patient wanted to see the Rotterdam Harbour a final time and Mr Veldboer even arranged for the stretcher-bound man to go sailing.
A year later Mr Veldboer founded the Stichting Ambulance Wens (Ambulance Wish Foundation) and has brought terminally ill people to weddings, museums, galleries, car shows, football matches and stables.
With the help of his 61-year-old wife Ineke, 61, Mr Veldboer has turned it into his full time job.
Mr Veldboer, who worked for over 20 years as an ambulance driver used the hospital’s ambulances to help people around the country and later was able to buy his own.
And now, he’s helped more than 10,000 people live out their final wishes – and has taken them everywhere from art exhibitions, to watching their favourite football team one last time, and even took one terminally ill teen from his home in the Netherlands to Switzerland to see mountains, that he had never seen before.
He said: ‘Every day we help six terminally ill people.
‘It’s so nice to see them happy. For us it’s something easy to do but for them it’s something so special.
‘We have driven people for miles, even to other countries, and taken them to some really amazing places.
‘But for me, the most beautiful thing I think we have done for a woman who was in a hospital for months and after being given a terminal diagnosis, she was taken into a hospice.
‘All she wanted was to see her home for one last time. We took her there and she was just standing there for an hour, looking around.
‘Two days later, she died. It was such a beautiful wish, so simple yet so meaningful for her.’
Stichting Ambulance Wens try to fulfil any last wishes they can no matter how quirky they might be.
Another quite popular wish is for patients to see their favourite piece of art for one last time and Mr Veldboer delivered. He arranged many trips to the museum, after the opening hours so people could admire the art.
The most recent one was at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, where people were able to see Rembrandt’s exhibition.
Mr Veldboer also arranged for two football fans to watch a game of their beloved Ajax one more time.
A terminally-ill grandmother was able to meet her newborn grandchild while another grandmother attended her grandson’s wedding.
In another case the Stichting Ambulance Wens took a man, to his last car show in Rosmalen, while two immobile ladies visited the Sand Stories in Elburg for the last time.
Stichting Ambulance Wens offers something that the patient’s relatives cannot do themselves. In most cases patients are immobile and bound to a stretcher so they wouldn’t be able to move in a car or another vehicle.
In addition, terminally-ill patients are in need of 24 hour medical care and that’s why the organisation consists of 270 volunteers who are all medically trained, in case of an emergency.
Mr Veldboer added: ‘It’s not only about helping the patient, we also help their families and friends create beautiful memories.
‘We know we cannot make them better but we give them so much joy in their last days and it’s special.’